Textile waste being sent to landfill is rising while all other materials are
reducing. What can be done about this? The UK is wasting millions of pounds each
year by sending old, recyclable and re-usable textiles to landfill. Without the
introduction of bans, landfill will always be "the default option”.
Research by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has discovered that,
despite the fact that there is spare capacity in textile recycling plants, more
than two-thirds of textile waste in Britain is sent to landfill. This equates to
around 1.4 million tonnes of material. Recovering and recycling just 10 per cent
of the waste currently sent to landfill could generate revenues of around £23.8
million a year. The reports also found there was a gap in the market for businesses
that can recycle or re-use carpet and mattress materials. In particular, carpet
recycling was revealed as an emerging market, while around 370,000 tonnes of carpet
is still being sent to landfill each year.
WRAP’s research demonstrates that there are opportunities here for organisations
and individuals to ‘reduce carbon footprints by diverting textiles from landfill
and extracting the maximum financial end economic benefits available from smarter
re-use and recycling’.
The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), a UK clothing industry initiative
which aims to rid us of our “throwaway fashion” culture, has a voluntary action
plan which hasn’t set targets on achieving industry-wide sustainability. ‘Nor does
it have any real teeth in terms of imposing penalties for those that do not fulfil
their commitments. So could, as some industry commentators have suggested, a worsening
economic climate actually lead to some of these actions and good intentions being
downgraded or not fulfilled at all?’
It is clear that the infrastructure and reprocessing capacity is available; therefore,
should the Government continue efforts to make people aware not only of the implications
of sending textiles to landfill, but also of the different collection opportunities
available for all unwanted textiles? Or should textiles simply be banned from being
sent to landfill?
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimates that
greater resource efficiency could save UK businesses billions of pounds a year,
but has so far stopped short of extending landfill bans, as it believes for the
first time we are recycling, composting or re-using more waste than we are sending
to landfill. Equally, it is apparent that we can do more which gives reason for
Defra to review the case for restrictions on sending textiles to landfill sooner
rather than later.