BIR: Multiple pressures on textiles recyclers

Harsh weather conditions, theft and declining prices are some of the challenges the textile recycling industry has to face.

Harsh winter conditions in parts of the USA, which led to “a quick tightening of markets” in late February and March, left many graders “unable to obtain raw materials” and forced some plants to stop production, according to the market report delivered by Eric Stubin, Vice-President of SMART and Chair of the Council for Textile Recycling during BIR’s Miami convention. “This general tightening seems to be on-going, with mixed rags prices ticking upward.”

For US exporters, market activity in Africa has remained strong for most of the year to date, although “a slight blip” in a few East African markets has been tied to “currency inflation north of 5%”. This has been exacerbated by regionally-weak agricultural yields and “major” competition from Chinese used clothing exporters, Mr Stubin observed.

In contrast to Mr Stubin, Mehdi Zerroug of Framimex was able to report a particularly mild winter in France, resulting in a larger-than-expected supply of originals and in stable prices rather than the normal seasonal increases. He also lamented that thefts are “threatening the sustainability of collections in certain places”.

Alan Wheeler, Director of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA), suggested that the prices commanded by collectors in the key markets of Eastern Europe and Africa “are still under a great deal of pressure”. Furthermore, the decline within the UK used clothing and textile market has accelerated this year, with “numerous business closures, several hundred job losses and an overall reduction in collection capacity”.

Mr Wheeler also noted that “a spate of fires at waste processing facilities has resulted in many insurance companies pulling out of the sector”, with a number of TRA members now struggling to find anyone to insure them. “Even if they do, the premiums are rocketing up,” he observed. “This is putting ever-increasing pressure on the economic margins.”

According to the general market report from Olaf Rintsch of Textil Recycling K&A Wenkhaus GmbH of Germany, there has been a sufficient supply of originals on the market and good demand from Africa despite “difficulties with the strong Euro”. And he added: “My dream would be that recycling goods be sold at decent prices.”


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