TRA urges co-operation between UK supply chain stakeholders

Textile Recycling Association urges co-operation between UK supply chain stakeholders to deliver a holistic approach as EU publishes its Textiles Strategy.

Following the publication of the EU Textiles Strategy today, the Textile Recycling Association is calling for a holistic approach to be taken by stakeholders to address UK textile supply chain, with steps to increase re-use and recycling forming a cornerstone.

In the strategy the EU have proposed to ensure that clothing and textile products put on the market are fit for circularity.   Products need to be durable, kept in use for longer and designed for eventual recycling in mind.  If such measures were introduced in the UK this would support members of the Textile Recycling Association to collect clothing for re-use which significantly reduces demand for new clothing and CO2 emissions.

“Acquiring used garments instead of buying new is estimated reduce demand for new clothing by around 60%[1] and research published earlier this year by the UPC University in Barcelona estimates that re-using 1kg of clothing saves 25kg in CO2 emissions[2]

said Alan Wheeler, CEO of the Textile Recycling Association.

“Also boosting more collections of textiles for re-use and recycling is essential.   If we don’t have a re-use or recycling economy, we don’t have a circular economy.   The Textile Recycling Association therefore welcomes the pledge by the EU to implement regulatory measures such as Extended Producer Responsibility and to ensure that a notable share of contributions made through EPR will go towards waste prevention, re-use and recycling.”   He went on to say. 

The Textile Recycling Association would like to see the UK Government make a similar commitment to introducing EPR when they publish their consultation on this issue later this year.  However, it is important to look at making improvements along the entire supply chain and put measures in place to increase demand for recycled content in new clothing.  Current recycling markets are mature and important, but demand for recycling grades are low and so is their value.   It is essential to ensure that new markets are established for recycling grades, for example, by including more recycled content in new garments, because without these we would simply end up collecting worn out textiles that can only be sent to landfill or incineration.  Investment in new fibre to fibre technologies can help to deliver this.

The strategy also reiterates the EU’s commitment for all local authorities to have separate collections of textiles in place by 2025.   This must be in done in collaboration with industry professionals and the UK should implement similar practices.  It is vital that collections are carried out in such a way that the re-usable value of the items are maintained and we are therefore encouraged that the EU has agreed to consider a requirement for preparation of re-use as a priority for such collections.  Unless done properly, re-useable items with viable, sustainable and environmentally beneficial outlets will ultimately be pulled down the waste hierarchy either into recycling or potentially even disposal.   That must be avoided and local authorities need to engage with textile collecting and sorting professionals such as members of the Textile Recycling Association to ensure that this is avoided.


To view the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles – click here.

Alan Wheeler – CEO, Textile Recycling Association.
[email protected].

[1] QSA Partners – Buying pre-owned fashion displaces demand for new resources – 2021