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Shout about your environmental credentials, textile recyclers told

Recycling author Adam Minter has told the textiles recycling industry that it was ‘so much better’ than its representation in the media and it hadn’t been ‘aggressive enough’ in putting its case.

Minter, speaking at the latest Bureau of international Recycling textiles division webinar, urged recyclers to  invite journalists to witness the industry’s activities at first hand. ‘The good news is that there are a lot of journalists, especially in the fashion press, who want to tell a good story about fashion/apparel recycling,’ he said. ‘I really encourage you to do this now because there is such a heightened level of interest out there, right now.’

Alan Wheeler, chief executive of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA), agreed that perceptions are changed when people see for themselves the detailed sorting conducted by experts and said the TRA had recently organised stakeholder visits.

Division president Martin Böschen of Switzerland-based Texaid, said media-fuelled misconceptions were particularly pronounced about used clothing exports to emerging economies. But he noted estimates suggesting that around 100 pieces of second-hand textiles exported to a developing country replace some 50 to 70 pieces of new textiles, delivering ‘quite substantial’ environmental benefit. Minter urged the industry to disseminate such data because ‘these numbers tell a very important story’.

He said more consumers in North America and Europe were looking to buying second-hand for environmental reasons rather than on grounds of cost. ‘It has increased the status of second-hand in their eyes. I tend to believe that it is going to shift how people perceive the export of textiles to emerging markets as well.’

Throughout Africa, Minter added, ‘one of the really exciting things is that second-hand clothing is an extraordinarily important source of female entrepreneurs’. Wheeler agreed that ‘our industry helps to promote gender equality’.

During the panel discussion, Petra Schweiger, programme manager of the Accelerating Circularity Project in Europe, explained that her organisation’s mission was to establish circular textile-to-textile systems, involving either mechanical or chemical recycling. It was crucial that ‘circularity becomes commercially viable’ and that genuine business opportunities were created, insisted Schweiger, adding that her organisation worked with textile collectors, sorters, pre-processors, recyclers, yarn spinners, fabric mills, garment manufacturers, brands and retailers.

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