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What A Waste! i + g cohen host groundbreaking textile event

i + g cohen ltd and resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting hosted the What A Waste! event at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 13th November 2012. The one day seminar and exhibition explored innovative ways to divert used clothing and textiles from landfill as well as generating new income sources.

Closer partnerships between textile recyclers, local authorities and waste management companies can play a major role in diverting greater volumes of discarded clothing and household textiles from landfill, delegates at the UK's first dedicated textile recycling seminar heard. Shortening the supply chain from residents to recyclers is essential to preserving quality, minimising contamination and extracting the maximum value from the hundreds of thousands of household textiles discarded in the UK every year.

Latest figures show that 350,000 tonnes of clothing are being sent to landfill in the UK each year, with a further 70,000 tonnes destined for incineration.

Managing Director of i + g cohen Elliot Cohen spoke at the event saying "Given that two-fifths of the world's population will never be able to afford to buy good quality clothing, these end markets offer tremendous opportunities. Used clothing and textiles are a resource, not a waste and can bring in valuable revenue for councils" In his presentation on Feedstock Sources and Values, i + g cohen ltd Director Phil Geller reported on results from WRAP-funded trials carried out earlier this year by i + g cohen ltd and Axion Consulting which showed that 81% - 89% of collected clothing is reusable with little variation between established and popular collection routes such as textile banks and kerbside collections. "Separation at source and sorting clothing as soon as possible after collection is key to maximising value and the amount that can subsequently be reused. Keeping it clean, dry and free from contamination is vital" said Phil Geller.

Enabling householders to recycle their unwanted textiles along with their everyday recyclables is proving a success for Suffolk Waste Partnership, a strategic partnership of seven district councils and the county councils. Every year 7,000 tonnes of textiles in residual waste end up in Suffolk landfill sites.

SWP Support Manager Rob Cole was the first speaker of the day presenting a case study of their cost-neutral, county-wide scheme funded by the Resource Efficiency Fund which has already collected 350 tonnes since it was first introduced in July 2012. Rob pointed out that there has been no evidence of an adverse effect on existing charity collections. Residents' SWP-branded bags containing unwanted clothing are collected from the recycling bins as part of the scheduled collections and sent to MRF's pre-sort cabin potentially saving £220,000 a year in landfill disposal costs.

Alan Wheeler, National Liaison Manager for the Textile Recycling Association discussed the growing current and future markets for textile reuse and recycling, pointing out that 60% of used clothing collected in 2011 was reused. "Strategies are in place to encourage local authorities to start textile collections and tackle the readily available supply of clothing that is till being thrown in the bin," said Alan "We have to strike a balance with charity shop collection, but it's important to note that donations to charity shops have increased alongside the growth in kerbside collections showing that these have had no impact on charity shop collections"

Presentations also featured Sander Jongerius on automatic sorting for textile and clothes developed by Textiles 4 Textiles and Izzie Johnston from WRAP who examined the opportunities and challenges for closing the UK textiles loop.

Delegates feedback was extremely postivie with praise for the interesting discussions, good mix of delegates and event organisation. One commented that it was a "great even. We now have lots of plans in the pipeline to get more value from our textiles and really think about how we handle them"

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