Suffolk: Charities up in arms over clothes collections

CHARITIES across Suffolk fear they could lose thousands of pounds after local authorities in the county have started to collect unwanted clothes in recycling bins.

The Suffolk Waste Partnership has started collecting unsoiled clothes which can be put in special bags in recycling bins in an attempt to cut down the 7,000 tonnes of clothes that end up in landfill in the county every year.

However charities already collect used clothing. Some can be re-sold but other clothes can be sold as rags for recycling.

Mary Baker, secretary of the East Suffolk and Ipswich RSPCA said: “Most charity shops already work with textile recycling companies to sell off any items unsuitable to be resold. So if the public gives items to the council instead of taking them to their favourite charity shop, the charity will lose money.

“The RSPCA shop in Carr Street, Ipswich, already works with a textile recycling company to sell them any holey jumpers or stretched tee-shirts that we receive, to raise extra funds for the animals that we help. And I’m not aware of any charity shop that doesn’t do the same.”

The St Nicholas Hospice in Bury St Edmunds shares the same fears, and is launching a campaign to persuade people to keep on giving clothes to them.

Lucy Alfred from the Hospice said: “We get a lot of money from selling used clothes for recycling and this move is quite a concern. We shall be trying to spread the ward to our supporters to persuade them to carry on giving us their clothes.”

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And Paul Baker from Age UK in Suffolk echoed their fears: “We have seven shops across the county and they accept all clothes that are not soiled – those which are not able to be sold in the shops go for recycling.

“The price of rags is pretty good at the moment so if we don’t get as many as a result of this, it could be a serious blow to the charity.”

Peter Stevens is the chairman of the Suffolk Waste Partnership which co-ordinates collections and waste disposal across the county.

He said: “We have made it clear in all our literature about the clothes recycling that people should continue to support charity shops.

“The new collections are aimed at cutting the 7,000 tonnes of clothes that end up in landfill – that costs more than �600,000 in landfill taxes every year.

“We want to work with charities and we would urge people to continue to take clothes to them – but we must reduce the amount we send to landfill.”

One of the problems has been that many recycling bins for clothes say they only want “good quality” clothes fit for re-sale, meaning many people have not taken those which are damaged or worn.

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