Demand from overseas reuse and recycling market for used textiles from the UK has dropped significantly, according to a new report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
The report concluded that the market for used textiles (clothing and non-clothing excluding carpets and mattresses) has experienced an apparent turning point. The last few years saw substantial growth in exports, accompanied by large price rises and reports of an influx of new entrants into the market.
However, market conditions were said to have now changed, with demand from overseas markets stalling in 2014, and now falling. WRAP also found that prices and revenues from exports have been falling since 2013/14.
According to WRAP the textiles and clothing industry is the 5th largest contributor to the UK’s carbon footprint and that simply extending the life of clothes by an extra nine months of active use would reduce the carbon, water and waste impacts by around 20-30%.
It was also claimed that providing 1 tonne of clothing for direct reuse e.g. donate to a charity shop or sale through eBay can result in a net GHG saving of 11 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
WRAP’s Textiles Market Situation Report, looked at the market past and present and summarises key trends and highlights opportunities for creating new sustainable end markets in the UK and abroad. Key themes in the report include:
- Around 1.7 million tonnes of UK textiles are consumed every year, 1.1 million tonnes of which is clothing
- Clothing consumption in the UK is rising.
- The amount of textiles collected for reuse and recycling increased from 2010, reaching a peak at an estimated 650,000 tonnes in 2014. However preliminary data suggests that in 2015 textiles collected fell by around 4%, partly due to a decrease in the price that operators can get for used textiles in the various end-markets.
- The main destination for used UK textiles is overseas. However overseas demand for used UK textiles has started to decrease and prices have been falling since 2013
- Recent trends highlight the need for a wide range of sustainable end-markets. These include re-use markets at home and overseas, as well as developing recycling grade markets for textiles that aren’t suitable for re-use, including fibre-to-fibre options.
Marcus Gover, director at WRAP commented: “The sector is facing a challenging time and having access to this in-depth information and analysis, summarised in one place, provides useful insights to help inform their business decisions.”
Alan Wheeler, director at the Textile Recyclers Association added: “The used clothing industry is going through an extremely difficult period both here in the UK and globally. Political and economic pressures are being put on existing markets and this report shows that resultant UK collections actually decreased slightly in 2015.
“Yet consumption of new clothing is continuing to rise, with clothing prices still generally much lower than they used to be. Continuing downward pressure on prices for used clothing is inevitable for some time to come.
“The UK needs to take a longer more strategic view on how to develop new markets which need to be less reliant on used clothing exports and consideration of how to finance these developments needs to be given a high priority.”
The Textiles Market Situation Report joins a series of reports produced by WRAP that examine current economic conditions and trends in the markets for recovered materials and can be found HERE
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