DEFRA announces new stricter limits on T4 and S2 exemptions for collectors and sorters of textile waste in England and Wales

Earlier this week DEFRA announced a number of reforms to the waste exemptions regime in England and Wales, with the intention of closing loopholes and preventing exemptions from being misused to permit risky and illegal activity. This follows on from their  previous consultation in 2018, and the supplementary response covering exemptions reform can be found here: Reducing crime at sites handling waste, and introducing fixed penalties for waste duty of care – GOV.UK (

Under the proposed new limits, businesses that treat textile wastes (e.g. bailing and sorting) will be able to operate under a T4 exemption if they treat up to 5000 tonnes a year or 100 tonnes a week.  This is down from the current limit of 156,000 tonnes a year, but this is a significant change from the original proposal in the 2018 consultation which posed a limit for T4 exemptions of 100 tonnes a year.

For businesses that do not treat their own textile waste but pass it onto another business for bailing, sorting etc. the proposed new limits at which businesses can operate under an S2 exemption for storage has been set at 100 tonnes a year with a volume storage limit set 50 at cubic metres at any one time.   A similar storage limit was originally posed in 2018, but is significantly lower than the current limit of 1000 tonnes a year.

We have sought clarification from DEFRA on this and they have confirmed that this new limit is cumulative, which means that if a business is collecting 2 or 3 tonnes a week of textile waste and storing it for a short period of time before passing it on, they could exceed the annual limit of 100 tonnes, even if they only have a few tonnes of textile waste on site at any time. It may be possible for small collection businesses to operate under a T4 exemption provided that they bail their goods or undertake other processes that quality as treatment under T4 rules.

DEFRA have said that will remove waste exemptions which encourage or mask improper or illegal waste activity, and tighten the conditions around other exemptions.  They will also introduce greater record keeping requirements for all waste exemption holders; impose limits and controls on how multiple exemptions can be managed at one site; and ban the use of exemptions at a site operating under an environmental permit.

The Textile Recycling Association recognises that these proposed changes will have significant implications for the sector with many businesses no longer able to operate using exemptions and having to apply for full environmental permits possibly across several sites. This will incur significant set up and ongoing costs and more burdensome in terms of administration, training, ensuring compliance with the stricter requirements of full permitting etc.

The TRA understands that these reforms to the waste exemptions will become law in April 2024 and DEFRA have said that they expect changes to the exemptions will start to roll out during 2024 and continue into 2025 but that timescales have not been finalised yet.

See the new wording applied to the T4 and S2 exemptions.
Information about changes to T4 exemptions can be found in Annex 2 and for S2 exemptions please look at Annex 6.