Home Waste Watcher Keeping textiles out of landfill

Keeping textiles out of landfill

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One of my goals when I started writing Waste Watcher columns was to help direct people to the best places to recycle, rather than throw out, their goods – particularly those tricky items such as mobile phones, tech, and spectacles!

Donating unwanted but usable household and clothing items through a second-hand shop is an obvious path, but I’ve always wondered about the items that aren’t good enough to pass on, but could still serve a purpose. Or, as was the case this week – finding a home for a bulk lot of new, branded school uniforms. They were more than fit-for-purpose, but not something that could be re-sold through the usual channels.

This is when I discovered Wendy Grant and her company, Perth Community Clothing Recycling Wholesaler. Wendy has one main objective – keeping textiles out of landfill. From her facility in Cannington, Wendy takes donations of clothing, shoes, handbags,  towels, and linen and tackles the huge task of sorting through and appropriately distributing them.

“We start with a pre-sort for supplying some op shops and market sellers locally,” says Wendy. “Then the next step is getting donations ready for overseas.

“To send to Africa, the clothing or manchester must be in the very best condition. I only work with people and charities who hold a B3030 licence – which is zero waste. And although it can take a long time to build up an entire shipping container, they are happy to work with me because I will send them exactly what they want.”

Beyond the top-quality gear, Wendy also sends textiles to a Swedish company called Renewcell. Renewcell take high-cellulose fabrics, such as cotton or viscose, which are shredded and turned into a slurry. Once contaminants and any non-cellulosic content are removed, the slurry is dried into a product called Circulose and this product is fed back into the textile production chain as a “biobased equal-quality replacement for virgin materials’

A final step is taking any items not suited for wear or recycling and turning them into rags. Denim, flannelette, towels, and cotton t-shirts, especially once well-worn as they are extra absorbent, are ragged onsite and sold to industry.

What I really loved about visiting PCCRW and chatting to Wendy was the transparency over the whole operation. I’ve put clothes in those big communal charity bins, and you really don’t know where they are going to end up – especially if they get contaminated in some way. It is incredibly disheartening to do the right thing at an individual level, only to be let down further up the chain -similar to when residents in some Perth areas discovered their recycling was actually going to landfill.

The other great aspect about visiting PCCRW was the visual impact. Bales upon bales of top-quality items – which fantastically, are being recycled – but they were still bought and then hardly used. My mind often wanders when shopping to the shear volume of clothing available. Even in op shops, racks are absolutely stuffed with items, and if you go to a major shopping centre and really think about how much clothing is stocked, I can’t help but wonder how on earth it would all get worn? And then I read this horrifying statement from the British Fashion Council which confirmed my suspicions: There is enough clothing on the planet right now to dress the next six generations of the human race. Something to think about next time you are tempted by flashy fast-fashion – especially with the current bombardment of Black Friday sales!

PCCRW offer door-to-door pick up (free) and a mail collection service (from $23). Wendy says, “I go to most places – if I can half fill my truck, I’ll go!” The best practice in outlying areas would be for an individual or group to become a central drop off point, and then once there is enough, contact Wendy for pick up. You can give her a call on 0439 203 964 or book online here. Thanks to Wendy and her team, the school uniforms I dropped off will be gratefully received by children in Sierra Leone in the coming weeks!