Charity shops, re-use and recycling
The Government’s Waste Strategy for England 2007 re-inforced the widely-accepted “waste hierarchy” (above), and noted that “most products should be re-used or their materials recycled”.
Charity shops generate funds for charity by selling on unwanted items – i.e. providing a reuse opportunity for them.
As well as the public donating items to shops, through large-scale door-to-door collections, charity shops collect over 15 million sacks of textiles and other materials from UK households every year.
In total 1.9 million households are given the opportunity to reuse and recycle unwanted items every week.
Over 363,000 tonnes of textiles are sent on for reuse and recycling by charity shops every year (1).
It is estimated that only 2% of materials donated to charity shops end up in landfill (2).
Reuse of clothing saves 29kg CO2e per kg of clothing compared to recycling and 33kg CO2e compared to disposal (3).
UK charity shops' reuse activity alone helps reduce CO2 emissions by about 6.3 million tonnes per annum.
Charity shops are providing a second life for an increasing range of items, including books (with more specialist charity book shops opening every year - over 20,000 tonnes of books are currently reused each year through them), CDs, DVDs, videos, toys, furniture, bric-a-brac and electrical items (where these can be tested first).
As they are attributed as the place for reuse/recycling, they are also now playing a role in collecting recyclable goods to help with fundraising, e.g. mobile phones, print cartridges. As many as 9 out of 10 people agree that charity shops are a good way of recycling and reusing unwanted items.
Reuse and recycling
There is increasing recognition of the contribution charity shops make in reducing the volume of items that go to landfill, and a number of local authorities are now counting the volume of textiles sent for reuse and recycling that can be measured, towards their recycling targets. In return these authorities support the charity by paying recycling credits for this volume. The Association is keen to encourage other authorities to adopt this approach.
Without the opportunity charity shops provide for large-scale reuse and recycling, these unwanted items would inevitably find their way into the waste stream to be treated by local authorities as household waste.
Calculating the environmental benefit
Each charity shop saves an average or 40 tonnes p.a. of textiles alone, by a) selling them in the shop, or b) passing them on to Textile Merchants for recycling or reuse.
This grosses to around 363,000 tonnes across all charity shops in the UK.
Based on the 2010 landfill tax value of £48 per tonne, the value of textiles reused or passed for recycling by charity shops in terms of savings in landfill tax is £17,424,000 pa.
1 Based on data from the Charity Finance "Charity Shops Survey" 2009 and Association of Charity Shops Quarterly Market Analysis 2010
2 Based on data from the Charity Finance "Charity Shops Survey" 2009 and Association of Charity Shops Quarterly Market Analysis 2010
3 Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste, Oakdene Hollins et al, September 2006
4 Of which £48 is the 2010 rate of landfill tax, £37 is for landfill care, £17 is landfill allowances and £0.50 is administration costs. Figures based on a 2007 press release sent out by Cornwall County Council.