10-11 December 2015, RREUSE held a second workshop focusing on the role of social economy actors in the management of used textiles. Around 60 participants from 14 different countries attended. Social enterprises have long been involved in the collection, sorting and selling of used textiles with members of the RREUSE network collecting some 130,000 tonnes between them annually.
As the purchase price for collected textiles paid by sorting companies fell sharply over the past eighteen months the workshop provided the ideal opportunity to discuss the current state of the market, potential future impacts of EU policy and to share innovative solutions to re-use and recycle textiles locally. In particular, the need for closer cross-border cooperation amongst social enterprises was high on the agenda.
The case of Blythswood Care, a social enterprise from Scotland which set up a partner enterprise in Romania, was a perfect example of such cooperation. The Belgian social enterprise Terre also presented its European-wide project, TESS GEIE, which aims to foster cooperation amongst European social enterprises active in textile collection.
Regarding policy, it was clear that differing implementation of EU waste policy is leading to distortions in the used-textiles market in some parts of Europe. In addition, the role of extended producer responsibility was discussed in the presence of Eco-TLC, the only Producer Responsibility Organisation of its kind in Europe. Lastly potential implications of the recently published circular economy package were discussed, including proposed changes to definitions such as ‘preparing for re-use’ and related calculation methodologies. The case study of Flanders proved that a separate re-use target is indeed a powerful way to accelerate the local re-use of textile and of other products.
Lastly, several initiatives led by European social enterprises concerning the local re-use and recycling of textile were also presented including Le Relais’ ‘Metisse’ insulation which brings a solution for recycling 26% of what is collected by Le Relais, De Kringwinkel Antwerpen’s ‘Kilomeet’ shop concept which helped the social enterprise to increase its re-use rate by 8%, and the creative upcycling of used textiles by Fundacio Deixalles, Spain.
Alongside the discussions, Le Relais – Soissons organised a site visit where all its collection, distribution and sorting system was explained. You can view some of the visit below.