Securing The Future.

Reducing Textile Waste In The UK: What The Government Is Saying

Textile waste is a growing problem that is reaching a crisis point. Fast fashion and a consumer economy have made the UK the highest buyer of clothing among European nations, with a staggering 2 tonnes of clothing being purchased every minute.

This has also led to unacceptable amounts of clothing being discarded, often long before it is worn out. Surveys suggest that more than 60% of UK households have unwanted clothing, and it is estimated that 30% of this will end up in landfill.

Another environmental issue generated by the fashion and textiles industries is their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. While it is estimated that they account for 4-8% of emissions globally, complicated intercontinental supply chains make it hard to accurately trace and monitor this contribution, which may be higher still.

The UK government has recognised this is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed. In this blog post, we look at what they are doing to meet it.

Defra’s Waste Prevention Programmedefra 1

In July 2023, the UK government issued a policy paper titled “Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste” in which it set out Defra’s Waste Prevention Programme for England and identified measures for domestic resource and waste management, with prevention and recycling as its top priorities. Textile manufacturing was one of the 7 key sectors it highlighted for action.

They also set out three approaches to achieving their goal of Nett Zero Waste.

Designing-out waste

The government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme creates eco-design criteria aimed at improving the durability and recyclability of textiles and clothing, effective product labelling and restrictions on landfill and incineration. It will be supported by grants and loans to develop the recycling infrastructure to make EPR viable.

Systems and services

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The UK government will push manufacturers and retailers to offer collection and take-back services. For the clothing industry, this will ensure clothing is processed by the most effective means.

Current textile collection schemes in the UK amass 620,000 tonnes per year, of which 60% is exported. In many receiving countries, this has created an ecological catastrophe as the recycling infrastructure cannot cope with such volumes and most ends up in huge landfill or incineration sites. There is also the added carbon footprint associated with transporting waste textiles globally.

Avena Group is already partnering with suppliers and corporate consumers to maximise the recycling potential of discarded clothing and workwear through its SECUREBRAND textile and clothing disposal and recycling service. Committed to a policy of zero-waste-to-landfill, Avena uses industrial shredding equipment in the UK to break garments down to fibres. These are then graded according to quality, with top-grade fibres being respun into yarn for new textiles. Second-grade fibres are used for padding and acoustic soundproofing in upholstery and vehicle interiors. Third-grade fibres – a small proportion of the fibres recovered from the process – are used to generate energy.

By recycling these fibres, SECUREBRAND not only breathes new life into old garments but also provides a sustainable, local source of materials for UK manufacturers.

Data and information

Databases will be established to create online accessible product passports – data specific to each product including its material composition – which will lead to improved recycling quality. Voluntary corporate reporting will also be encouraged.

What does this mean for businesses and consumers?

clothing manufacturingIf we are to see a slowdown or reversal of this situation, it is clear that a change of will and mindset is needed by manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

Clothing must be designed to last longer and wear better. They must be made from fabrics that can be recycled easily and with minimal environmental impact. Retailers must also resist the temptation of exploiting the fickleness of fashion in the interest of profits. The progression to high-volume, lower-quality fast fashion has been gradual; its reversal must be swifter and will therefore be more painful. Undoubtedly there will be victims among manufacturers and retailers, but this is unavoidable. Those businesses that survive will be the ones that adopt earliest to more sustainable manufacturing, distribution and recycling, and who successfully reposition their products as not only better for the environment but lighter on the wallet in the long term.

It will also require consumers to adjust their buying habits; resisting the temptations of impulse buying and following every small change in fashion. Capsule wardrobes of fewer but better designed and manufactured clothes that survive the vagaries of fashion must be seen not only as an environmentally responsible choice and a cost-saving but as a fashion choice.

How can SECUREBRAND help businesses?

If your organisation designs, manufactures, retails or purchases clothing or textiles, SECUREBRAND can help you implement a programme to reduce the volume that is incinerated or goes to landfill. We sustainably process discarded and obsolete workwear and uniforms, manufacturing overproduction and retail surplus.

For some businesses and organisations, surplus garments and textiles can be a security threat. Branded workwear, particularly that of emergency services, healthcare or security personnel, can put an organisation or the general public at risk if it is worn unlawfully. Fabrics and clothing designs that are the trademarks of a fashion house can damage its reputation if they find other routes to market. Our recycling service is also secure, protecting you by preventing your branded workwear or unique designs from being misused.

Watch our recent uniform recycling project with EE:

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If you would like to explore how SECUREBRAND can help you become more sustainable, reduce textile waste and contribute to a circular economy, register your interest below or get a quick quote.

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