Commercial drivers

With secondary markets available in many countries, including nations in Africa and across Eastern Europe, end-of-life clothing is a valuable commodity. There are plenty of organisations collecting EoL clothing in the UK, and many offer significant financial incentives.

Higher quality clothes, and those with little wear, command the highest prices, but even soiled or ripped and torn clothing can be sold on for use as low value wipers, or recycled into fibres for applications such as fillings for the automotive, audio and mattress industries.

‘Charity rag’ is clothing not sold in charity shops for reuse as garment, but sold on to textile reprocessors, often for export overseas. The figure below shows the sharp increase in rag value over the last couple of years.

Variation in price of charity rag from 2001 to 2007

Variation in price of charity rag from 2001 to 2007


Key policies affecting the clothing industry

Sustainable Clothing Roadmap

Led by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs), this ‘roadmap’ involves nearly 300 stakeholder organisations throughout the industry, and sets out to reduce the social and environmental impacts of clothing.

Clothing is a target area for Defra as it has a high impact, both with regard to the social implications along the supply chain, and the environmental effects during manufacture and at end-of-life disposal - when only around 16% is recovered. For more information from the Defra web-site click here.

Waste Strategy for England

The Waste Strategy for England 2007 is an extension of the 2000 Strategy, which has made significant headway into increasing recycling and composting, with rates having nearly quadrupled since 1996/97.

The Strategy identifies key materials for which diversion from landfill could create significant further environmental benefits, including: paper, food, glass, aluminium, wood, plastic and textiles. For further information on Waste Strategy for England 2007, see the Defra website.

Landfill Directive

Council Directive 99/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste entered into force on 16 July 1999. The objective of the Directive is to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air. The Directive further aims to prevent/reduce effects on the global environment (e.g. the greenhouse effect and risks to human health) from the landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill. This is being accomplished by introducing stringent technical requirements for waste and landfills.

The Directive sets constraints on biodegradable material to landfill, and with textiles typically made up of 50% biodegradable matter, this sets a substantial incentive for recovery of clothing. For details of the Directive see here.

These are just some of the policies driving the recovery of corporate clothing in the UK. For social and environmental drivers see our key issues page. 01296 337 165