Used textiles: collection and processing in Germany
1 million tons of an estimated potential quantity of more than 1.35 million tons of used textiles are collected, reused and processed every year.1
Since the 1950s, textiles have been collected by charitable institutions in order to meet the local and global needs for well preserved second-hand clothing. In addition to classical door-to-door and street collection, an extensive, stationary container collection system established itself in the 1980s. The parameters and market structures have changed considerably since mid 2012 with the commencement of the German Recycling Law and the declaration of used textiles as waste.
- Due to new market players, an artificial market has been created. This leads to the fact that collected waste was not only processed properly but it also served as a commodity according to best price options.
- Public waste disposers are participating increasingly in the new market. As a result, collecting, sorting and processing are advertised publicly to a greater extent.
- Partially, alternative collecting systems were created that interfered with reutilisation and high-quality recycling.
Besides the immense amount of illegal collection, these factors lead to a shortage of goods within the domestic exploitation practice of specialised companies.
References of applicable, superior waste regulations are normally referred to in tendering procedures. A professional basis, however, is often missing which makes it impossible to include qualitative needs of processing of used textiles in a tender procedure. Handling used textiles requires great care.
The status quo of tendering procedures is as follows:
- Frequently, the only criterion being crucial for acceptance is pricing. This leads to the possibility of market entry for suppliers with „marginal“ collecting and processing methods and to
- time-consuming (domestic) processes contributing significantly to value creation in the used textile chain, losing competitiveness
Therefore high-quality sorting and processing of used textiles cannot be guaranteed anymore.
Unified regulations for sustainable recycling of textiles
Sustainable use of textiles and their high-quality collection, sorting and processing must be ensured by qualitative requirements. Unified regulations serve as guidelines and as a professional basis for decision-makers as well as for market participants.
Effects of the guidelines
- specification and standardisation of tendering procedure (with adaption of qualitative requirements for the collection and recycling of used textiles),
- transparency of mass flow (from location of collection to its destination),
- legal certainty of tendering procedures,
- standardisation of implementation and guidance for audits, support for legitimate collectors, selectors and recyclers
Aims of the guidelines
The guidelines should
- not interfere with the market, but instead ensure a better competition,
- fulfil the legally required 5-stage waste hierarchy and
- be accepted and supported by the decision-makers in the market and in the implementation.
The main function of GftZ is to further develop and specify these approaches in dialogue with all parties involved. We are also always open to dialogue with interested stakeholders about any questions regarding a sustainable textile future. We will represent our activities and contents to politics and intuitions and will present them through public relations.
1 Korolkow, J.: Konsum, Bedarf und Wiederverwendung von Bekleidung und Textilien in Deutschland – Studie im Auftrag des bvse-Bundesverband Sekundärrohstoffe und Entsorgung e. V., Institut für Aufbereitung und Recycling der RWTH Aachen: 60 S., Aachen 2015