Salvation Army (NL) sees a dark future for textile collection

More and more textiles are procured and discarded, the quality of textiles is decreasing and the quality of recycling stays behind. This combination gives a dark image of the future for the textile collection market, says Salvation Army, the oldest and biggest textile collector in the Netherlands.

In the past, collecting 25 million kilos of textiles per year was not a problem for the Salvation Army in the Netherlands. There was a huge second-hand market in the Netherlands and in other places across the world including Eastern Europe. Sold textiles were generating income for the health facility and several aid projects of the organisation. Moreover, a portion of the textiles needed to be sold regardless, to repay the procurement compensations for municipalities (price for every collected kilo textiles in the respective municipality).

‘That time is gone’, says Operational Director Simon Smedinga from ReShare, Salvation Army’s department for textile collection in the Netherlands.

That time is gone

‘More clothes are discarded than ever before and the quality goes down rapidly. This means that we are receiving less and less money for the textiles, while the ‘procurement compensations’ for municipalities are still the same. Additionally, we are obliged to collect everything, which also includes ‘rags’ that have little value. Municipalities are putting efforts into reducing the amount of residual waste; however, we have seen the mountain of rags growing rapidly in the last ten years. Textile waste has doubled. This mountain has no value, since large scale recycling of textiles stays behind. The costs to collect these low grade textiles are higher than the revenues. In jargon, one speaks about a ‘chain deficit’ that is getting closer and closer.

Another cause for decreased interest in second-hand textiles is that ‘fast fashion’ has become a big competitor for second-hand, in the Netherlands, but also in Eastern Europe.

Smedinga continued: ‘I am very worried about the future of textile collection. With the way things are currently going, no collector will survive the coming years. Something has to change. That change could be the development of textile recycling: this would be a perfect solution for our rags that have no good purpose currently. On the other hand, municipalities have to reflect on the future. It is not reasonable anymore that we are in fact a waste collector, yet are charged for collecting the waste. Rather, we should cooperate to develop a business model in which we finance the circular textile chain together.’

For the re-wearable textiles, Salvation Army sees a growing market in the Netherlands. That is why they plan to invest the coming years in 10 to 15 new second-hand shops from the RESHARE STORE formula.

Response Salvation Army UK:'The sentiment in this article is similar for SATCoL, however, some of the quality issues are more unique to the Netherlands.' Tony Hosking, Business Development Director SATCoL UK.