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Visit UK sorting plants during Textiles Action Week

Four UK textiles recyclers have opened their doors in honour of Textiles Action Week, organised by the nation’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The initiative was kicked off on Monday and is meant to call attention to Textiles 2030; the voluntary scheme for the whole fashion and textiles industry’s move towards circularity and system change in the UK. People can visit the sorting plants Savanna Rags (Mansfield), East London Textiles, SWD Clothing (Manchester) and Chris Carey’s Collections in South East London.

Here, they will be able to see how these businesses put the mixed used textiles they collect through a detailed sorting process to separate reusable clothing and other textile items, from those that have to be recycled and ensure that contamination is removed.

‘Seeing a sorting plant for the first time can be a real eye-opener. Hundreds of tonnes of mixed textile items can pass through a sorting plant every week and typically they are graded into around 120 re-use and recycling grades.  In some cases used textiles are separated into over 200 grades,’ says Alan Wheeler ceo of the Textile Recycling Association.

‘We actually have some very good practice in this country which ensures that good quality re-useable clothing is put up for sale and traded on the global markets,’ he adds. ‘With re-use at the top of the waste hierarchy, it is vital these items continue to be used for their original intended purpose. As for recycling grades, if there is a demand for a specific fibre type or blend these can largely already be sorted by existing processes to a standard required by manufacturers.  The key issue is that demand for recycling grades and new markets need to be developed so that the value of these grades increase.’

Wheeler points out that the Textile Recycling Association will be running more open-door sessions as part of an on-going programme to allow interested parties to actually see what happens in these facilities. 

The idea is that once more people have practical, first-hand knowledge about how the textile recycling industry operates, this will maximise opportunities to build new partnerships, develop new circular business models for fashion and textiles and capitalise on the fact that re-using clothing saves around 60% in carbon emissions.

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