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Textile Recycling

Recycling has become a popular topic in the UK. People are becoming more aware of the impact they are having on the environment, and many are keen to ensure that they recycle wherever possible and dispose of other waste responsibly. This guide will focus on fabric, textile and clothing waste and how to recycle it correctly – an estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill every year, and less than a fifth of used clothing is recycled.

Clothes Recyclcing

What is textile waste?

Also known as textile waste, this category of waste includes anything spun, woven or knitted from either natural or artificial fibres. In June 2019, the UK government rejected a proposal to ban textiles from landfill entirely, and instead have decided to focus their efforts on encouraging reuse and recycling. They also noted they would consider extended producer responsibility (EPR) measures for fabric waste – this would mean the original producers of the fabric products would bear more responsibility for how their products are disposed of after use. At the moment there is no penalty for sending fabric to landfill, and while councils do make fabric recycling points available, they don’t tend to be as common as recycling points for other waste such as plastic and cardboard.

Textile waste includes:

    Clothes
    Shoes
    Bags
    Duvets
    Bedsheets
    Curtains
    Table cloths
    Towels
    Cushions
    Pillows
    Cloths
    Textiles

Clothes Recycling Collection

How do you store clothes for recycling?

We can supply a range of bins and containers that will match you to meet your textile and fabric waste collection needs. There are wheelie bins in multiple different sizes, skips for those needing to get rid of larger volumes of waste, and balers – machines that compress waste items into blocks. Balers can be automatic or manual, depending on the output of waste – if you are producing a very high output of waste, it would be advisable to choose an automated or semi-automated baler. It is also possible to use bags for waste collection if you are unable to use bins for any reason.

What happens to fabric waste after collection?

Once collected from the kerb, all recycling is taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to be sorted. At this point, the fabric waste will be separated from the rest. There are two different processes – one for natural textiles, another for artificial textiles.

Natural textiles: these are pulled apart into their separate fibres and cleaned. Then they are spun back into yarn, which is then ready for use to make new fabrics.

Polyester textiles: these are shredded into polyester chips, which are melted and used to create new polyester fabrics.

Other artificial textiles: these can be reused by other industries, and are frequently used in automobiles.

Clothes that are left in textile banks and are deemed wearable will be resold as they are, often to foreign countries for their used clothes markets.

Textile Recycling Collection

What happens to fabric waste that is not recycled?

Fabric that is not recycled will end up in landfill. It sits in landfill while it decomposes – this can take decades, particularly for artificial fabrics. Cotton and thread take a few months to decompose, while synthetics like polyester can take hundreds of years. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that whoever is disposing of your fabric waste – whether it’s you, your local council or a private company – is focused on recycling whatever they possibly can.

Where does fabric, clothing and textile waste come from?

The fashion industry is one of the worst culprits for producing clothing waste thanks to the rise of ‘fast fashion’ – the practice of making new clothes and accessories available as quickly and cheaply as possible. The ready availability encourages customers to buy more items more frequently, while the ever-decreasing costs often come with a decrease in quality. This means that consumers are forced to dispose of clothes more often, so they are caught in an endless loop of buying cheap clothes that do not last.