Recycling textiles at Whitehouse and Schapiro in Baltimore/ USA, in trade with used textiles over 100 years http://www.webuyrags.com/
WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR DISCARDED TEXTILES
The EU Commission classifies used textiles as waste. However, an amendment to the directive on waste currently in force has been under discussion since 2008 to establish new conditions in all the EU countries by 2020. Its premise is the fact that urban waste increased by 19% in the EU between 1995 and 2003. Currently 49% of this waste is deposited in landfill sites, 18% is incinerated and 33% is recycled or composted. In some countries the landfill rate is 90%, in others it is 65%. Unless new measures are put in place, the absolute amount of waste deposited in landfill sites will not go down. The European Parliament has ensured that the new directive contains clear objectives for waste management:
I) Prevention and reduction of waste generation;
2) Reuse or multi-way use for the same purpose;
4) Other recovery operations, including incineration; and
Incineration processes must produce a certain amount of usable electricity or district heating.
Taking textiles alone, the current situation appears somewhat better. Some 35% of all used textiles were recycled in EU countries 1) in 2006. However, we need to take into account that conclusive statistical data for the waste industry is not available on a European level. All information on textile recycling is based on estimates!
The organisations affiliated to the Brussels Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), Textiles Commodity Division 2), assume that the lifetime of clothing and household textiles is three years. They note that although there is a steady increase in the quantity of textiles purchased and later discarded, these show an equally steady decrease in quality. Next to the North Americans, Swiss and Irish, the Germans are among the largest consumers of textiles, using some 25kg per capita per annum (worldwide average: —7kg), and the second largest exporters of used clothes each year.
THE EXAMPLE OF GERMANY
In 2008, Germany was one of the very few countries for which an analysis of domestic textile recycling was compiled; interestingly enough, it was produced by a Chinese student, Yinan Gu. On behalf of two associations 3) and 10 years after publication of a comparable analysis of similar quality, she completed a student research project entitled “Textile recycling in Deutschland (Textile Recycling in Germany)” at the Department of Processing and Recycling, RWTH Aachen University, led by Professor Thomas Pretz and supervised by Indra Weranek. According to her findings, on the reference date in 2007 (three-year lifetime assumed) German private households owned more than 1.126 million tonnes of used textiles, consisting of 13% house- hold textiles and 87% clothing. In comparison, the proportion of domestically produced clothing decreased by 84% between 1993 and 2006 (13 years)! In 2006, just 3% of our everyday clothing was still produced in the country! Correspondingly, clothing expenditure in the basket of commodities decreased from 6.9% (1995) to 4.9% (2008). Clothing produced in low wage countries is considerably cheaper (and of lower quality) than clothing manufactured at home.
Of the 1.126 million tonnes of used textiles, some 075 million tonnes of used textiles — 66% of the population’s annual textile consumption — was recovered by commercial companies, local authorities and charities, either through street collections or used textile banks. According to the above-mentioned research project, ca. 43% of this recovered material was re used, for instance in charity clothes stores and second—hand shops; ca. 16 % was re claimed to produce wiping cloths or secondary raw materials, such as shredded textiles or rags for cardboard production; and 31% was used for thermal conversion. This equals a recovery rate of 90% of the material collected. The remaining 10% of unusable waste recovered in collections, and the 34% of used textiles not collected, which probably end up in domestic waste, account for some 44% of landfill. This means that improved collection methods offer a great deal of recycling potential. Prognos AG, a German company estimates that, in favourable conditions, we can expect a recovery rate of nearly three quarters of used textiles generated each year by 2020!
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