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Textile recycling – how has it evolved and what do we still need to shred?

2013 marks the Textile Recycling Association’s 100 year anniversary, a fantastic achievement for any organisation, especially given the turbulent times that the sector has seen.

The current textiles landscape for instance, is one of mixed fortunes. Charity rag prices are at a record high, but this attractive value of clothing has enticed a number of opportunistic and often ‘rogue’ recyclers into the industry. Increased competition, criminal activity and squeezed margins have forced some well-established textile recyclers out of business, which is a great shame.

Textile quality is also variable. The national media typically shouts about the high values of the best quality clothing, which are then seen as typical for the industry. However these figures do not truly reflect the poorer quality materials that have to also be collected and sifted through to locate these better quality items. Textiles collected by councils in comingled collections for example, are often too contaminated to reuse. This in itself is posing a large topic for local authorities to debate – should households be asked to separate textile ‘waste’ or at least protect their textiles in a bag so that they remain dry? The cost implications and reusability of the bags themselves are also things to consider, which is perhaps why there is no clear cut answer as yet.

Of course the reuse and recycling of textiles should be the priority wherever possible. Changing trends see many people discard of their unwanted garments simply because they have gone out of fashion, but there is usually so much life left in this often barely-worn clothing.

But when does a slightly different approach need to be adopted for textiles? If you take a look at UNTHA UK’s client, there are some very interesting examples. One customer utilises UNTHA’s shredding technology to destroy the uniforms of emergency service teams, armed forces and train drivers which, for security reasons, could not end up in the general waste stream. Elsewhere a client has invested in our UNTHA four shaft shredder to destroy faulty designer goods which cannot appear in discounted stores or on market and car boot stalls, for fear of cheapening the reputation of a premium brand.

Shredded textile is not necessarily destined for landfill. The re-use of textile fibre is a developing market, with a number of outlets already existing on the continent and in the Far East. The high calorific value of textiles also makes this material a viable option for Waste to Energy.

If you have a textile recycling requirement that you would like to discuss with a member of the UNTHA UK team, then please call 0845 450 5388 to speak to one of our shredding experts. Alternatively please email us or complete our short enquiry form.


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UNTHA UK is the country’s leading supplier of innovative waste shredding technology and waste management expertise. Combining unparalleled technological manufacturing capabilities with decades of UK marketplace and shredding application expertise, UNTHA UK delivers an insightful, personable and value-adding service which has cemented the company’s position as the number one waste machinery provider in the country. ISOQAR Registered
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Cert No. 11513
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