TRA – High price of used clothing has profound effects on charities’, businesses’ and local authorities’ ability to raise funds

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) welcomed the debate that was highlighted by the BBC1 Breakfast programme earlier this week, which reported that Charity Shops are being affected by a drop in donations as more people sell off their clothing for cash. The TRA recognises that the establishment of cash for clothing type stores and more door to door clothing collections could be causing problems for some charity shops, which are seeing donations of used clothing fall. Yet the TRA believes that there are solutions that could benefit all parties.

“You would think that rising value would be good for both charities and the established businesses, but because used clothing is now worth more, the competition to collect this valuable commodity has increased and everyone is currently getting a smaller slice of the cake. Yet there is scope to increase the size of the cake” said Alan Wheeler, National Liaison Manager for the Textile Recycling Association.

Delegates that attended the Annual General Meeting of the TRA on Monday (13th February) heard that there are still over 1 million tonnes of textiles being dumped in households waste bins every year, of which around 60% could have been re-used or recycled. In addition, official figures estimate that around 300-400,000 tonnes are accumulating in the national wardrobe each year, with purchases of new clothing outstripping the amount being sent for re-use/recycling or being dumped in the bin.

The TRA is working with the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on the Sustainable Clothing Roadmap. Through this a series of recommendations on how to maximise clothing collection rates will be made. If the public can be encouraged to divert all the re-useable and recyclable textiles that are currently being dumped, and empty their wardrobes of the unwanted clothing, there would be plenty of clothing for all the charities, businesses, local authorities and organisations engaged in clothing and textile collections. Through the clothing roadmap a clear and coherent strategy for tackling these issues will be produced.

Some local authorities have also started contracting out used clothing collections. It is widely recognised that diverting textiles away from landfill produces significant carbon and other environmental benefits. More so than most other waste streams, Political pressure is now being applied to councils to tackle textiles. At the same time councils are being enticed by the high value of the clothing and are using the income generated to offset the costs of providing other various services they offer to the local community and to reduce the burden on the local taxpayer.

The impact of the high value of used clothing on the established UK collectors which employs thousands of people in the UK remains uncertain. Although they can sell their clothes on to the global markets at higher prices, the increased competition, increased fuel and utilities prices, relatively high inflation and many other factors, have driven up the collection costs at a rate which is at least as fast as the rise in value of used clothing. The result is that Net Profits have not increased for many established businesses and some are trading at a loss.

Further Information
Alan Wheeler – National Liaison Manager
Tel: 0845 6008276