The guidance was published by EuRIC’s Textiles Recycling Branch and is intended for use by industry professionals throughout the textile value chain.
It comes as the EU introduced a mandatory separate collections of textiles for all local authorities as part of its Circular Economy Package 2018, of which the UK is a signatory.
Mariska Zandvliet, EuRIC’s Textiles president, said: “With the expected increase of used textiles to be collected after 2025, it must remain our top priority to minimize quality loss throughout the sorting process and maximize possibilities to re-use and recycle.
“Our specifications, prepared by leading industry professionals, ensure that the quality in collected textiles is retained and describe a sorting process for sustainable re-use and recycling. Thus, serving as reliable source for the entire industry facilitating circularity in textiles.”
For collectors, the guidance says any collection vehicle/transport systems should be cleaned after each load.
The guidance also says the collection bin should be frequently emptied by trained personnel at the place of collection, and during a first screening, additives and impurities shall be removed and separated.
It continues: “The collected post-consumer textile waste shall be carefully and separately packed and transferred to the collection vehicle. The handling of the collected post-consumer textile waste can be done manually or automatically whereas the main objective shall always be to prevent damage and cross-contamination of the collected post-consumer textile waste.”
Any vehicle used to collect clothes shall also “protect the collected post-consumer textile waste against weather and other outside influences”.
For textile sorters, incoming and outgoing textiles need to be weighed on a calibrated scale. The weighing receipt must be clear, readable and permanent and in accordance with the legal requirements of the site location.
The collected post-consumer textile waste shall be “carefully unloaded to prevent damage and crosscontamination”, and need to be unloaded into a covered area for processing or subsequent storage.
The guidance adds that all incoming collected post-consumer textile waste shall be stored in a covered area and under dry conditions, and storage time should be minimised as much as possible.
EuRIC is the umbrella organisation for recycling industries, with more than 5,500 companies with an aggregated annual turnover of about €95 billion.
In December last year, it called for “an ambitious strategy on textiles”, which will include extended producer responsibility legislation and incentives to boost end markets (see letsrecycle.com story).
From the UK’s perspective, Alan Wheeler, chief executive of the Textiles Recycling Association, said he’s supportive of the guidance, but says the publication showcases what the majority of professional collection and sorting businesses already do.
Mr Wheeler explained: “As we move towards 2025 and the date by which separate collections of textiles by local authorities will become mandatory in the UK and EU, it is really important that we ensure that good quality clothing that has sustainable re-use markets wherever they are in the world, are not moved down the waste hierarchy by a combination of poor collection/sorting processes and a lack of knowledge about the very detailed sorting processes that take place in the UK and Europe.
“Following the guidance and required professional standards ensure that good quality used clothing items are available for purchase by customers internationally”.
EuRIC textiles handling & sorting specifications for re-use and recycling of used textiles are available for download here.