Introduction

The aim: To reduce clothing waste to landfill and incineration by increasing the recovery rates of clothing and recycling of higher value materials.

The expected outcome: To have more textiles collected, reused and recycled from municipalities and textiles collectors.

Why take action

In most Western European countries, only 30-50% of discarded textiles from households is collected. In major cities, this figure is even lower due to all kind of reasons, for instance many high rise buildings and less space to collect. The rest of the textile material is thrown away and not recycled or re-used. Therefore valuable materials are being lost because they get sent to landfill or are incinerated.

Many of these clothes could have been reused on the second-hand market. If not, they might have been recycled. However, for low grade clothing that only can be recycled a viable business case needs to be developed. This is urgent, since according to the new European Waste Directive by 2025 EU member states are obliged to have a system in place for separate collection of textiles, not only re-wearable garments.

Key steps

1. Report on collection in cities

Improving collection of textiles starts with engaging with municipalities and textiles collectors. In many cities local governments have already started to improve collection of clothes. We did a study on practices in six cities across Europe and drawn out findings that can inspire municipalities elsewhere.

We uncovered a wealth of approaches, both in terms of physical collection methods but also how collection and subsequent processing was organized, key messages that have been communicated to citizens and the role that municipalities have taken.

In all cases, city authorities have directly, or indirectly, increased their level of engagement. Waste prevention policy and the growing circular economy agenda implemented in some cases by national/regional goals for used textiles has been a driver, next to opportunities to combine environmental and social goals, greater transparency in what happens to used textiles and potential economic benefits for municipalities and their waste collectors.

View Textile Collection in European Cities report.

2. Regional meetings

We organised seven regional meetings in European member states. These meetings had municipalities and collectors as a target audience. Aim of the meetings was to spread the information found on collection for the report and agenda setting. This needs to lead to action in cities and municipalities to collect more and better.

The meetings promoted the findings of the report and spread knowledge and experience among municipalities and other stakeholders responsible for the collection of clothing, inspired them with practical examples and lessons learned and building networks. The meetings connected to the local situation in countries. Meetings were held in cooperation with local partners in Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, the Baltic countries, the ACR+ network, Italy and Northern Macedonia. Also presentations were held for the BIR, the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the EPR Club and ISWA.

View an example presentation.

3. Guidance

Our findings in order to help municipalities implement measures to take positive action can also be found in a guidance. This is published  in July 2019. The guidance provides municipalities with information that can help them to take up a leading role in the collection of textiles.

Find the guidance here.

Key findings, results and impacts

  • Set measurable targets related to textile collection and then set up systems for monitoring them
  • Consider increasing collection convenience if collection levels are low, by increasing collection point densities or collection at home or in the workplace
  • Collaboration between different players can strengthen collection, subsequent processing and sale. Map important players and get to know them before you start.
  • Consider increasing/ensuring transparency in the processes for collected textiles and how the money that is raised by their sale, is used. For example, via an accreditation system such as the Nordic Reuse and Recycling Commitment.

View more lessons learnt in the guidance here.

Useful documents 

Guide for municipalities
Used textile collections in European cities 
Regional meeting example presentation