Text about take back schemes over Recycling Giving Back logo

Take back schemes - the untold truth

Sad reading from Jonathan Dyson on the Zero Carbon Academy website, published 23 August 2023

Check out their website for the full article.



"Last month, the Dutch NGO Changing Markets Foundation published a new report which concluded that three-quarters of clothing donated to major fashion stores in Europe to be reused or recycled are actually destroyed, abandoned in warehouses “or sent to an uncertain future in Africa.”1 The results emerged from what Changing Markets claimed was the largest tracking investigation of its kind, with Apple AirTags used to track 21 perfect condition coats, trousers, jackets and other used clothes as they passed through take-back schemes. The pressure group donated the items to H&M, Zara, C&A, Primark, Nike, The North Face, Uniqlo and M&S stores in Belgium, France, Germany and the UK or posted them to a Boohoo scheme. The C&A scheme has the slogan ‘Give your clothes a second life’, H&M has ‘Let’s close the loop’, and The North Face has ‘Let’s complete the circle’. Despite the slogans, Changing Markets said that 16 out of 21 (76%) of the items were either destroyed, left in warehouses or exported to Africa, where, it notes, up to half of used clothing is quickly shredded for other uses or dumped.

The investigation found that:

·        A pair of trousers donated to M&S were scrapped within a week.

·        A pair of jogging trousers donated to C&A were burned in a cement kiln.

·        A skirt donated to H&M travelled 24,800 kilometres from London to waste ground in Mali, where it appears to be dumped.

·        Three items ended up in Ukraine, where import rules have been relaxed due to the war.

·        Only five items, around a quarter of the original 21, were reused in Europe or ended up in a resale shop.

Changing Markets noted that “most of the schemes explicitly promise not to scrap usable clothing. But none of the named brands keep public records of the fate of the clothing donated to them. Instead they pass them to companies that specialise in reuse, recycling and final disposal.”2

The report raises fresh questions not only about whether brands are using greenwashing to convince consumers their old clothes will be reused or recycled but also how the industry can best manage the vast amounts of waste it creates. According to the European Commission, the EU generates 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste per year, with clothing and footwear alone accounting for 5.2 million tonnes of waste, equivalent to 12 kg of waste per person every year. It notes that currently, only 22% of post-consumer textile waste is collected separately for reuse or recycling, while the remainder is often incinerated or landfilled.3

The Changing Markets report was published less than three weeks after the Commission proposed new rules under which fashion brands will, for the first time, be obliged to cover the costs of managing their textile waste.4"



1Take-back Trickery - Changing Markets

2CM-tracking-PR-all-other-countries.docx (live.com)

3Circular economy for textiles (europa.eu)

4eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52023PC0420#:~:text=Of the separate collected textile,while the rest is exported.

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