Textile recycling and exploitation

There are fundamental reasons why the collection and exploitation of used textiles, especially of clothes and shoes, is necessary:

Quickly changing fashion trends lead to increasing amounts of used and discarded clothes. In Germany these amounts sum up to approx. 750.000 tons of no longer used clothes. These textiles need to be taken care of in a reasonable and transparent way to secure effective recycling measures. Recycling used textiles is the economically most reasonable option meeting the world’s need for clothes. Recycling used textiles is not only environmentally friendly but ecologically necessary.

1) Used clothes must be handled reasonably!

Recycling used textiles is socially reasonable and ecologically well-balanced. Only fully transparent chains of exploitation enable citizens to participate to the positive effects of recycling with their used textiles. There is worldwide demand for wearable second hand clothes, especially in Africa and the eastern European countries. In these regions people tend to prefer German second hand clothes for their good, wearable condition. In many regions of the world, used clothes, of which each citizen in Germany approximately discards up to 24 kg per year, are highly appreciated.

It is sad that the mistrust of many citizens in recycling companies has increased due to a small number of “black sheep” in the industry. This is why transparent and serious business practices are more important than ever. Many people hardly know about the number of jobs created in the recycling industry in their home countries and abroad. At home, jobs are created in the logistics section around the collection, exploitation and commercialization of used textiles. In countries abroad, many people are employed at businesses where used clothes are remodeled according to local needs or at retailers where the clothes are further distributed. In addition to that, many charitable organizations in Germany use and distribute used clothes which are made available to people in need of support. The amount of clothes collected in Germany exceeds the local demand by many tons. The surplus has to be used in a reasonable and transparent way. What becomes clear is that each donation of used clothes contributes to the many charitable, ecclesiastical and communal, institution’s efforts to act economically reasonable in face of the amounts of used textiles available.

2) Recycling used textiles is economically reasonable!

The revenues from trading used textiles amounts to the work of charitable, socially responsible organizations which depend on such sources of income to continue their important social commitments. Donating used clothes for recycling is a good way to act reasonably and ecologically sensible. The amounts of high quality used textiles collected in Germany lower the necessity to produce new clothes. On the international clothes market, used clothes from Germany compete with cheaply produced goods from Asian countries. These cheaply produced clothes are of a much lower quality than used clothes collected in Germany. This explains the great demands for modern and high quality used clothes with a well-balanced quality/price ratio. Cheap goods are economically unreasonable. This argument holds for the local as well as African markets, where high quality used clothes are highly demanded. This shows that the exploitation of used clothes collected in Germany has many advantages for the promotion of economic progress in developing countries without any disadvantages for the local textile industries!

The amount of approx. 750.000 tons of used textiles duly collected in Germany each year also relieves the taxpayer as expenses for landfill sites are lowered.

3) Textile recycling is ecoconscious and ecologically necessary!

Used clothes should never be disposed of via domestic waste. To reduce the amounts of used clothes which go into landfill sites is one of the fundamental aims of society for ecological as well as economic reasons. Therefore it is important to collect used textiles apart from domestic waste. The burning of used textiles with other domestic waste is environmentally unfriendly and not tolerable from an ecological perspective.

Used textiles, which cannot be used as second hand clothes, serve an important purpose as well. Approx. 50% of collected used textiles are being used as industrial wiping rags or insulating material. This reduces the amounts of textiles especially produced for these sectors leading to positive effects for the environment. The production of textiles is ecologically very critical. The production of cotton does not only consume much water, pesticides are frequently used in cotton cultivation leading to CO2 emissions which are generally to be reduced for environmental reasons.

The collection and reasonable exploitation of used textiles therefore contributes to saving the environment.

4) How does the exploitation of used textiles work?

The fast paced fashion trends of our modern society are one of the main reasons for the large amounts of discarded clothes produced in western countries each year. As many of these textiles are of a high quality standard they have to be exploited in a reasonable manner. In Germany this is secured by the collection of used textiles directly at people’s homes, with accessible used textiles containers or at special drop-off facilities.

Of course the collection and exploitation of used clothes is not free of any costs. Nevertheless, many jobs are created where used clothes have to be sorted to secure that only the ones of the highest quality standard are going to be traded as second hand clothes. Professional companies specialized in textile recycling take care of sorting and exploitation of used clothes after receiving the licenses from the collecting charitable organizations. Approx. 40% of the amount of used clothes is being commercialized as high quality, fashionably up-to-date second hand clothes. This is taken care of by charitable organizations which distribute the used clothes for fair prices. The revenue which charitable and ecclesial organizations earn with the distribution of used clothes is used for financing social commitments. An advantage of this process is that consumers have the opportunity to choose from a variety of high quality second hand clothes. The amount of used textiles that does not meet the standard of second hand clothes, still about 370.000 tons, can be recycled and used as industrial wiping-rags or insulation material.