Recycling textiles from comingled collections ‘not profitable’
Local authority comingled collections of unwanted textiles for reuse and recycling is economically unviable, trials have found.
Comingled collections represents a disposal cost of £84 whereas the potential range in revenues obtained from segregated textiles ranges from £841 – £1,738 at textile banks to £676 – £1,481 at charity shops.
The studies were conducted in Manchester by textile recycler I&G Cohen and Axion Consulting on behalf of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
I&G Cohen claims the large discrepancy between comingled textile waste and segregated waste is due to heavy contamination and damage from the sorting process, which causes high levels of wastage.
The report assessed the impact that differing sources of recovered textiles had on the quality and subsequent value of the materials in the UK.
According to WRAP, textiles sourced from comingled collections under the trial were of such poor quality, because they were heavily contaminated, primarily by food waste, and had been damaged by sorting and baling processes. This resulted in all of the material being categorised as waste.
Despite this, WRAP noted that comingled collection schemes and subsequent processing methods vary and acknowledged that comingled collection schemes could yield textiles of a higher quality than were found in the sample assessed.
Trial results also found that textiles donated via established textile collection routes such as door to door, kerbside and charity shop could be much more successfully recycled and reused. The trials demonstrated an even response with reuse and recycling rates of 80% to 89% using these traditional routes.
I&G Cohen’s managing director said that the results showed there was great potential to divert more clothing and household textile items of the one million-plus tonnes that currently go to landfill every year in the UK.
“It is very encouraging to see that over 80% of clothing is reusable. Textiles are a resource and not a waste, so it’s vital that the public should continue to donate their unwanted items. Equally, local authorities and waste management companies can benefit by partnering with a service supplier who can help them maximise revenue from their textiles,” he said.
Cohen described such partnerships as “win-win”, explaining how recycling textiles could also benefit local economies.
He said: “Our textile bank collection services for one local authority raised over £90k in the first year; money that can be ploughed back into council services.”
I&G Cohen and Axion also found that washing and drying contaminated textiles for reuse and recycling was not economically viable.
“In our view, while in some cases laundering could add value, the £700k equipment cost does not warrant the investment. Collecting textiles via ‘cleaner’ routes is far better to maximise recycling and re-use opportunities,” said Cohen.