This report looks at key developments in the markets for UK recovered textiles (clothing and non-clothing excluding carpets and mattresses), including trends in supply, demand and prices.
The main themes this report covers are:
UK Textile consumption: The UK consumes around 1.7 million tonnes per annum of textiles (clothing and non-clothing excluding carpets and mattresses). Of this, 1.1 million tonnes are clothing.
Clothing consumption: Clothing consumption in the UK is rising.
Re-use and recycling: The amount of textiles collected for re-use and recycling increased between 2010 and 2014 before decreasing in 2015.
Decreasing export markets: The main destination for used textiles collected in the UK for re-use and recycling is overseas markets. Demand for UK used textiles has started to decrease in export markets and prices have been falling since 2013.
Risks: Lower prices and reduced demand lessen the incentive for collecting used textiles, which could lead to more going to landfill and energy recovery.
Recent market trends: Recent market trends highlight the need for a wide range of sustainable end markets. These include re-use markets at home and overseas as well as developing recycling grades markets for textiles which are not suitable for the re-use markets, including fibre-to-fibre.
WRAP's research into UK textiles consumption shows UK households spend an estimated £52.7bn1 a year on clothing – mostly garments (£47.39bn), clothing fabrics (£0.86bn) and clothing accessories such as ties, scarves and gloves (£4.48bn).
This amounts to around 5% of total household spend, with a further £1bn spent on cleaning (such as dry cleaning), repair and hire of clothing.
Used textiles arisings
The relationship between textile consumption and consumer textile arisings is unlikely to be on a simple one to one basis.
Many clothing items and other textiles typically have a lifetime greater than a year – 3.3 years on average, as illustrated in WRAP’s 2015 Sustainable Clothing Guide.
As a result, the items bought in any given year are likely to be discarded in a later year. In that later year, assuming that new textiles (clothing and non-clothing) are bought as replacements for old textiles at a broadly stable rate, consumption will also include purchases that reflect other factors such as the increase in population, textile prices, household income and fashion trends.So consumption levels can vary from discarded levels. This is where used textiles arisings exist.
Collections for recycling or re-use
Textiles such as clothing are collected through a number of routes, including local authority collections, textile ‘bring banks’, civic amenity centre collections, donations directly to charity shops, retailer in-store collections, door-to-door charity bag collections and ‘cash for clothes’ donations.
WRAP research18 suggests that once textiles have been collected for re-use and recycling, the largest end market is the export market.
Based on 2010 data, over half of the textiles that have been collected for recycling or re-use are exported, while 32% are destined for re-use in the UK (through charity shops) and 9% for recycling.
WRAP publishes prices based on a sample of textile operators as part of its Materials Pricing Report and Letsrecycle publishes some prices too.
Conclusions and challenges ahead
The UK consumes an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of textiles each year (excluding mattresses and carpets), including 1.1 million tonnes of clothing. Recent statistics suggest that clothing consumption in the UK continues to increase.
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