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Supply Chains for the Management of Post-Consumer Apparel Waste: Three scenarios addressing the UK-Tanzania context.

Sinha, Pammi, Beverley, Katharine J., Day, Claire L. and Tipi, Nicoleta S. (2012) Supply Chains for the Management of Post-Consumer Apparel Waste: Three scenarios addressing the UK-Tanzania context. In: Proceedings of the 18th International Sustainable Development Research Conference. The University of Hull.

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In the UK, end-of-life management of used apparel is of increasing concern. The emergence of ‘fast
fashion’ retail models, characterised by low prices and frequent changes in style, has encouraged greater levels of consumption and more rapid disposal of fashion apparel (Bianchi and Birtwistle,2011). It is estimated that annually, over fifty items of clothing are purchased per capita (Carbon Trust, 2011) and approximately two million tonnes disposed of nationally, 50% direct to landfill(DEFRA, 2011). The post-consumer apparel which is diverted from landfill is sorted by textile recyclers and sent on to a range of existing markets. Most is destined for reuse in its original form; a small proportion is
resold in the UK, but the majority is exported to sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe (Tanzania is
a major export destination). Apparel that is not suitable for resale may be reused as rags and
wipers or remanufactured into secondary products, but there are significant challenges to both
these markets, particularly in the UK. Technological change in the printing industry and the decline in heavy engineering have led to decreased demand for rags and wipers. Meanwhile, the heterogeneous material composition of post-consumer apparel waste means that remanufactured products are generally of low quality and value. A feasibility study undertaken in 2006 identified potential technologies and end markets which would add value to post-consumer recycled materials, but there has been little commercial interest in the outcomes (Morley et al, 2006; Morley et al, 2009). There is currently a thriving second-hand clothing trade in Tanzania but this is under increasing pressure from cheap Asian imports which have increased since the phasing out of quota restrictions following the expiration of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement in 2005. In addition, solid waste management in Tanzania is highly inefficient and it is likely that at end-of-life the second-hand clothing exported from the UK will be landfilled along with Asian imports (Sinha and Mahwera, 2011). Poor waste management infrastructure has given rise to an informal labouring sector of
scavengers or ‘waste pickers’ who recover and sell valuable waste materials (Scheinberg, 2001; cited in Uiterkamp et al, 2011). However, a recent small-scale study found that end markets for textile waste are small and of low value in comparison to other waste streams. This is particularly true when the textiles are badly damaged or shredded (Palfreman, 2010).
The European Union’s 2005 Waste Framework Directive places emphasis on diverting material from landfill. In the absence of strong domestic or overseas reuse and recycling markets for post-
consumer apparel, waste-to-energy processes such as incineration or mechanical biological
treatment may become the predominant waste management strategy for this waste-stream in the
UK, as has become the case in Northern Europe (EEA, 2007). Whilst preferable to landfill, this
represents a less satisfactory waste management strategy than reuse or recycling and does not
address the solid waste management issues evident in Tanzania.

The lack of value placed on textile fragments in Tanzania is in contrast to the situation in India,
where a strong mungo and shoddy industry converts post-consumer apparel imported from the UK
into yarn and blankets for the domestic and export markets. Low labour costs mean that the time-intensive sorting and processing stages in manufacturing remain economically feasible (Norris,2005). This indicates that low-labour cost countries can gain benefit from post-consumer apparel waste if the appropriate skills and infrastructure are in place.

This paper explores three supply chain scenarios aimed at tackling the problem of UK post-consumer
apparel waste from a global perspective.

In the first scenario, a global supply chain is described in which Tanzanian-base low-technology
reuse and recycling industries create value from post-consumer apparel waste. An existing case
study on Tanzanian tailors (Sinha and Mahwera, 2010) will be used to provide a basis for assessing the feasibility of reuse and remanufacture of post-consumer apparel. As not all post-consumer apparel is fit for this end use, we will also explore the possibility of developing a low-technology textile recycling industry making goods for domestic and overseas agricultural and horticultural markets. Both industries are important to the Tanzanian economy, and a previous feasibility study
has identified that post-consumer apparel waste can be used in producing nonwoven capillary
matting and growing media (Morley et al, 2006).

The second scenario explores the diversion of post-consumer apparel waste into a UK-based
company. The design and manufacturing processes of a leading UK automotive textiles
manufacturer will be analysed in order to determine whether this is a viable market for post- consumer apparel. This scenario addresses the predicted reduction in second-hand clothing exports to Tanzania.

The final scenario applies existing knowledge regarding the effect of waste-to-energy waste
management strategies have had on second-hand clothing exports from Europe to the UK-Tanzanian
context. A case study on Swedish waste management will provide the basis for this scenario.
For each scenario, we will discuss material flows, economic factors, environmental and social
benefits/impacts and the resources required for the scenarios to be implemented.

Bianchi, C. and Birtwistle, G. (2011), ‘Consumer clothing disposal behaviour: a comparative study’,
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Carbon Trust (2011). ‘International Carbon Flows – Clothing (CTC-793)’ [online]. Available from
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DEFRA (2011). ‘Sustainable Clothing Roadmap – Progress Report 2011’ [online]. Available from:
<>, [Accessed
EEA (2007). ‘The Road from Landfilling to Recycling: common destination, different routes’.
Morley, N., McGill, I. and Bartlett, C. (2009). ‘Maximising Reuse and Recycling of UK Clothing and
Textiles EV0421. Technical Report for Defra’ [online]. Available from:
<>, [Accessed 12/12/2011].
Morley, N. Slater, S., Rusell, S., Tipper, M. and Ward, G. (2006). ‘Recycling of Low Grade Clothing
Waste. Technical Report for Defra [online]. Available from:
<>, [Accessed 12/12/2011].
Sinha, P. and Mahwera, D. (2011). ‘Proposed Innovation(s) for Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain’. In
Uiterkamp, B. J. Schoot, Azadi, H. and Ho, P. (2011). ‘Sustainable recycling model: A comparative
analysis between India and Tanzania’. Resources Conservation and Recycling 55 (3) 344 -355.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Schools: School of Art, Design and Architecture
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Katharine Beverley
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2012 14:07
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2015 10:47


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