TRA warns of imminent collapse in UK’s textile recycling sector

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has issued a warning about the imminent collapse of the textile recycling sector due to global market challenges.

The group, representing over 75% of the UK’s used textiles collectors and sorters, has been made aware of their members’ plight. They have reported a real fear in the industry about being unable to collect used textiles from charity shops, recycling centres and community textile banks due to processing plants reaching capacity.

The impact of the UK sector not collecting waste textiles will result in devastating environmental consequences, including microplastic pollution, water pollution, and the accumulation of textile waste in landfills. Globally, 92 million tonnes of textile waste are produced yearly, equivalent to Mount Everest’s height every seven minutes or a rubbish truck’s worth of textiles being thrown away every second.

The UK used textiles industry is valued at over one billion pounds annually, impacting sectors such as UK Charities, Local Waste Authorities, the Logistics Industry and the Packaging Industry and affecting one in every 25 jobs in the UK.

Moreover, European countries potentially halting textile sorting operations compounded the industry’s fears for the sector’s future. France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Austria have proposed a ban on the export of ‘used’ textiles within the EU, signalling a significant shift in policy.

The crisis in the Red Sea, which is disrupting shipping lines, has significantly escalated operational costs for textile merchants. Coupled with increasing taxation from African and Asian markets and mounting pressure to curb waste exports, the industry faces immense financial strain.

According to a statement on the group’s website, “fast fashion has intensified the influx of low-quality textiles into the recycling stream. This further drove up operational costs, pushing many textile merchants to the brink of financial collapse.”

The TRA urges the UK Government to regulate the industry, including introducing an EPR scheme (Extended Producer Responsibility). They emphasise that transparent dialogue and concerted efforts are needed to support a sustainable industry.

The group remains steadfast in its commitment to advocating for the interests of textile merchants and fostering collaboration within the industry to overcome these obstacles.

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