Tidying up Textiles Recycling with WISH

I’ve recently been involved with the WISH Working Group for Health & Safety in the Textiles Recycling Industry. One of 25 different working groups currently operating under WISH to improve Health & Safety across our industry.

The EA are currently reviewing the 156,000 tonnes material throughout requirement for permitting when it comes to Textiles handling with a view to bringing this down to 110 tonnes. This is going to be a big shock to many smaller clothing recycling companies and merchants who currently don’t meet the threshold for the permitting regulations.

The Textiles Recycling Association (TRA) and Charity Retailers Association (CRA) and WISH are working together to ‘tidy up’ the textiles recycling industry as a whole. Recent visits to merchant sites have revealed problems with slave labour, poor working conditions and excessive working hours, limited or no Health & Safety policies and procedures along with other employment law and waste legislation issue.

The partnership is developing an independent audit process with the aim of developing and maintaining an approved list of textile merchants who meet a certain set of standard. These will include Health & Safety Management Systems, Health and Safety Policies, Insurances, Policies and Procedures, Risk Assessments, O-License and Vehicle Maintenance Records as well as host of other Employment Law and Financial Standing checks.

Once a merchant has undergone an assessment, they are approved for use for 3 years. The list, which is effectively a list of approved suppliers will be available for other merchants and Local Authorities to access. This means, as Local Authorities, we can be sure that those High Street charity shops such as British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder, Cancer Research, The Salvation Army, Oxfam, Marie Curie (and also bring site operators such as ERC and Bag It Up) have all undergone a compliance audit to meet a set of minimum standards.

Once this audit process has been implemented, it is likely to be extended to merchants processing WEEE and Bric-A-Brac, which we know many charities and the VCS are currently collecting instore, however, there are concerns regarding the increase in popularity and availability of retail take back schemes resulting in a reduction of this material within the charity sector.

It is estimated that 1tonne of mixed textiles will have 60% reuse value and 40% recycle value. Recycle values are much lower, however, anything that is cost neutral can be processed if a company is also incentivised with the 60% resale value. Surely then, this is a win-win situation for Local Authorities, the VCS and textile merchants.