In this report, commissioned on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), WRAP looks at the areas throughout the lifecycle of textiles where the level of textile waste produced is an issue, in order to identify ‘hotspots’.

The report looks at waste by fibre type, waste by life cycle stage, and waste by product type to pinpoint not only where textile waste is happening, but also the types of textile waste occurring.

Key findings

WRAP’s research identified several key waste hotspots in the textiles lifecycle:

  • Cotton overall had the highest levels of waste of all fibre types, particularly in the processing stage of production (i.e. when cotton is being spun, winded, woven, knitted, made-up).
  • Similarly, polyester had the second highest levels of waste by fibre type, predominantly within the processing stage (i.e. when polyester is being spun, winded, woven, knitted, or made-up).
    • These first two findings are unsurprising given 80% of the textiles consumed in the UK is made from either cotton or polyester, or a combination of both.
  • Wool waste during the fibre-to-yarn stage (i.e. when wool fibres are being spun into yarn) was also particularly high due to contamination.
  • Finally, the volume of clothing in the residual waste was identified as an area of concern that needs to be addressed. This clothing is a valuable resource and could have been redirected to more appropriate streams such as reuse and/or recycling.

Data gaps

Despite efforts to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of textile "waste" during the retail phase of the textiles lifecycle, challenges related to commercial sensitivities and measurement difficulties impeded WRAP's ability to gather the quantitative data required for detailed analysis of this phase. However, WRAP was able to begin to establish some consistency in defining various waste types within the retail phase, such as returned products, deadstock products, and surplus stock, through consultations with Defra and the UK textile industry.

In conclusion, additional research and industry engagement are necessary to bridge data gaps on the scale of textile waste occurring during retail in the UK, to enable the industry to work towards effective solutions.

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  • Textiles Waste Hotspots Report

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