FAQs textile recycling
Textile recycling schemes have long been recognised as a
quick and easy way to raise money, but in recent years the textile
recycling industry has been falling into decline.
As a result, several schemes have been forced to make drastic
changes to the way they work with schools - from the amount they
pay out, to the items they collect, to the distance they are
willing to travel. Many of you have already highlighted this
growing problem on our Facebook page, so we put your queries to
Alan Wheeler, Director of the Textile Recycling Association
(TRA), to find out why, and how the industry is being
A textile-recycling company that we've used for years has
recently stopped taking collections in our area. Why are so many
The main reason we are seeing a retraction in the number of
collections is a crash in the global market value of used clothing.
A large quantity of used clothing in the UK is collected for
sorting, then exported for sale in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the
Middle East. And while these countries have valuable markets for UK
textile merchants, they are also vulnerable to fluctuations as a
result of economic and political pressures.
Civil unrest across sub-Saharan Africa has restricted the
movement of goods across the continent, and the Civil War in
Ukraine has had a big impact on the market, too.
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa also caused problems in the
devaluation of important African currencies, like the Ghanaian cedi
and Kenyan shilling, as have the Russian rouble and Ukrainian
The fact that the UK is planning to leave the European Union
also muddies the water - where we previously had some clarity on
where the market was heading, now we aren't sure where things will
end up. The UK is still signed up to 53 trade deals with countries
outside the EU, but will have to renegotiate some agreements. The
downside is this could take years, but there may also be an
opportunity for the UK textile recycling industry to secure a much
The payments we receive for collections are half the amount we
received a few years ago. Why are companies paying less?
Because the value of used clothing has decreased, the amount
that recycling schemes can pay for collections has more than halved
since 2013. Even though virtually all new clothing is created in
China and Bangladesh, the perception is that British used clothes
are more valuable than those from other European countries.
As a result of this and EU expansion in 2004, where we gained
access to a big new market, we did see the value of British used
clothing increase between 2005 and 2013. However, at the end of
2015 the British pound reached the end of a seven-year-high against
the Euro, and used clothing from the Eurozone became even cheaper.
Of all the collectors that were once members of the Textile
Recycling Association, 23% are now out of business.
We are a new PTA and would like to raise money through textile
recycling. Is it still worth setting this up?
Yes! Textile recycling is still a high-value commodity (albeit
at a lower value than it was) and is still a good way to raise
funds for many schools in most parts of the country. It might be
more difficult to find a collector in your area, however, as most
have cut back to cover fewer places, though some are still
For more information
Information correct as of 8 September 2016. Subscribe to PTA+ emails
to receive any updates on changes to the UK textile recycling
industry affecting PTAs.
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