Please do not put textiles in your green bin
Published: 18 May 2020
In his regular feature, Denis the Dustcart asks everyone to not put textiles in your green bin.
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We are seeing a huge increase in the amount of clothing coming through our Materials Reclamation Facility, where the city’s recycling is sorted, which is causing some significant difficulties.
Our MRF is not set up to take textiles: removing this material (which has zero value after becoming soiled in among the other recycling) can cause our picking staff to miss vital and valuable plastics, tins, cans, paper and cardboard; moreover it can damage our equipment by becoming entangled in the machinery.
Owning an MRF has considerable advantages for Exeter: it enables us, for example, to sort plastics well enough that some other authorities in the region send theirs to us. Accepting textiles would come at the expense of extracting the maximum environmental and economic benefit from the various streams of sorted recycling we produce currently.
As advertised previously, the textiles banks have been closed due to Salvation Army (the Devon-wide contractor for textile collections) being unable to empty them. Since textiles are not technically classed as ‘waste’, Salvation Army has been unable to secure key-worker status for its collection drivers. We will, of course, keep everyone fully updated as soon as we have any information about changes in this situation.
We appreciate that many people may feel they are being helpful by putting clothes in the green bin while the textile banks are closed, but the reality is that it poses costly problems.
Textiles banks are for clothes donations, not recycling. In districts where local authorities collect textiles from the home, those textiles are kept separate. Clothes and shoes must be wearable. It’s similar to passing these items on to a charity shop. Unwearable or soiled clothes are not recycled. Anything that comes through our plant will have spent time in the back of a dustcart, mingled with several tonnes of recycling.
There is no rag trade. Old, unwearable clothes and shoes have zero market value and in fact cost public money to dispose of. The only way to ensure the reuse of old textiles that are not in a good-enough condition to be donated is to turn them into items to use at home or to gift: makeup remover pads, patchwork, cushion covers, dish wipes, tea-towels, pin cushions, cleaning rags, etc..
Spending staff-time and resources on removing textiles with no value from our recycling line means allowing many more valuable and more recyclable items to slip through. This not only affects Exeter’s income from recycling – money that is spent on local public services; it also means – potentially – less plastic, aluminium, steel, paper and card being recycled.
If you have clothes and shoes in a suitable condition to be donated, please hold on to them until the textile banks and charity shops are able to open again. If your textiles aren’t suitable for donation, try making them into something useful. Either way, please don’t leave them beside the closed textiles banks and please don’t put them in your green bin.