Recently we posted about how all of our future textiles waste was going to be recycled! (Or at the very least be burnt for energy). We were excited about this, very excited. For years we had been looking for a service like this without much success.
We were aware of other countries burning their textiles waste like Sweden for example. Not the best solution, but certainly a step up from letting it go to landfill. We were also very aware of the clothing bins you see at some recycling centres. We were however always suspicious of these as the only reason we would take clothes, and not flat textiles, is because you were looking to sell them on or reuse them. We now know of course that this was in fact the case and we have had a horrifying few years of crashing local African textiles markets with our unwanted Boohoo tat.
When it comes to large scale solutions in the Uk though, that was pretty much all there was. We spoke to recyclers, local government, nation government and there really wasn’t a solution or desire to create one. The response always came back to the cost. It would cost too much to set up and the volumes of material needed to make it viable would be too high. How true that statement is, is of course up for debate and I personally would argue that being the country that builds a plant that recycles all the fabric off cuts from Northern Europe could have been a massive boost to the economy (but it’s very possible that I don’t know what I am talking about).
So you can imagine our surprise when we were contacted out of the blue by a company saying they could take all of our textiles waste and recycle it! They claimed to have big industry partners and seemed to be well established and be recycling a whole lot of stuff, not just textiles waste. So we thought this was it! Someone had finally cracked it! They had done what we knew was possible and brought a much needed service to market so we signed up!
It wasn’t cheap, it really wasn’t cheap!! 9 times more expensive than the rest of our recycling collections combined for half the collections. But Hey! this was new and none of our textiles would be going to landfill so it was still a no brainer.
Paperwork and invoices come through quickly and were paid (serval hundred pounds for the first quarter) and we excitedly told the world about this new part of our business and how amazing it was. We can do this!
Then we waited and nothing happened, no follow up emails, no next steps, nothing. After a bit of chasing we were sent the bin we were promised, no branding on this though or anything that would relate this to the company providing the service. So we waited, and we emailed and we call and…nothing happened.
That was it. Plain and simple. This company had agreed to provide us with a service they had no intention of delivering on. They just took the money and didn’t do anything. This was a bit of a blow to us and somewhat of an embarrassment as we have had to back pedal on all our marketing around this and of course that’s before we even get the environmental impact.
What’s important to consider here though, is why and how this company was able to do this. Normally for any other service, especially one offered to us out of the blue I would have to research the company, check the reviews (not that these mean much really) spoken to other suppliers about quotes and basically do some good old due diligence.
Why didn’t I in this case? Well really because this was our only option. As a sustainable focused Social Enterprise we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact and textiles waste in the biggest thorn in our side when it comes to this. It’s ever present and something we desperately need to solve, and sadly, desperate people do not make good decision.
So this is why we need to talk about textiles waste. As we see our industry and evolve and shift towards a sustainable future we need to be ensuring that the base level of services are in place to allow all businesses to make good informed decision about their waste and not feel pressured in to agreeing to services they are not comfortable with or that don’t really meet their needs. Regardless of changes of law.
Whenever there is a change like this, it will always be those out there looking to take advantage of those with little in the way of choice, for their own benefit, and we have experienced that now first hand.
So lets all do better, and ask more of those that are meant to help us improve the sustainability of our business!
Lets speak up and demand proper government backed services to go along with the changes we are seeing in law and lets call out those that are in this to make a quick buck!
(Oh and we did get our money back in the end, after 5 months and not a single collection of our waste!
So if anyone is in need of a wheelie bin worth of textiles waste do let us know!)
Written by Adam Roberston - Managing Director, Kalopsia Collective