The Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform received a question about what can be done locally with low-quality second-hand clothes. In particular, to receive information about ideas and projects that could be replicated in other regions to foster circularity and sustainability.

Below, a number of good practices are presented that have been identified in the context of Interreg Europe projects as well as other information and knowledge gathered in the context of interregional cooperation.

Good practices

  • HUMANITA textile recycling (CESME project) – this good practice coming from the Bulgarian Association of Municipal Environmental Experts concerns the video-surveilled positioning of containers to collect clothes nearby specific protected locations (e.g. schools, supermarkets, hospitals) instead of too exposed street corners where collection systems of clothes often fail. Awareness raising campaigns are also conducted to motivate citizens to use such containers and second-hand clothes (with funds for every kg of collected clothing) are directed to the national Red Cross.
  • Social Cooperative ‘Humana Nova’ – this good practice identified by the Croatian Agency for Small and Medium Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment targets irresponsible textile waste management and unemployment in vulnerable groups (e.g. persons with disabilities, people at risk of social exclusion). The cooperative at hand promotes recycling and reuse of second-hand clothes while creating jobs in a socially responsible manner.
  • Les Petits Riens (2LIFES project) – this good practice is about the well-established network of collection points (600) and second-hand clothing shops (33) in the Brussels Capital Region collecting over 8,000 tons of textiles on yearly basis and contributing to job creation in the fields of collection, sorting, reuse, repair and second-hand sales (i.e. over 300 employees, 300 volunteers, training opportunities).
  • ‘The Collection’, improving textile waste collection (WINPOL project) – this good practice relates to the solution found by the City of Antwerp (Belgium) to avoid illegal dumping of clothes and misuse of containers for the collection of used clothing. Thanks to cooperation with NGOs (i.e. ‘The Collection’ consortium’) second-hand clothes can be collected ‘door-to-door’ by appointment and/or directed to specific delivery points. Second-hand textiles (1,200 tonnes in 2017, i.e. +10% growth from the previous year) are sorted and sold locally.
  • The Clothes Library (CirCE project) – this good practice is about clothes as part of the ‘sharing economy’. Thanks to an app developed by a start-up (supported by social media campaigns, workshops and awareness raising actions) unused clothes can be resold, borrowed or rented. This allows to prolong the life of clothes, which remain in the economy instead of being thrown away and disposed off by means of landfilling or incineration. 
  • Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile (CirCE project) – this good practice identified by the Dutch Social and Economic Council is about a voluntary instrument signed by a broad coalition of partners (e.g. trade associations, industry, NGOs, government) to reduce the negative impact of the textile sector on the environment and to enhance health and safety standards for workers).
  • Textile recycling valley (RESET project) – this good practice from Nord-Pas-de-Calais (France) is about the creation of an industrial cluster, where different entities have teamed-up to share their know-how and skills for developing innovation and stimulating action in the field of recycled textiles.

Besides the aforementioned good practices, the output of the RESET interregional workshop on ‘Recycling in textile and waste disposal’ might also be of interest. Including this presentation on textile waste management in the Prato District (Tuscany, Italy) and this other one on Reused, upcycled and redesigned clothes and accessories.

This article from the CECI project on how to make an impact with circular fashion sums up the proceedings of a webinar organised by the Municipality of Mechelen (Flanders, Belgium) which aims at becoming a circular city by 2050: for this transition to happen, actions will need to be carried out to increase resource efficiency in the textile and clothing sector, including by encouraging reuse and ‘revaluing’ clothes.

Other relevant policy information

  • European Commission, New Circular Economy Action Plan: adopted in March 2020 as one of the first main initiatives under the European Green Deal (EGD), the new Action Plan has prepared the ground for:

    • a comprehensive EU Strategy for Textiles which, among others, will aim at boosting the EU market for sustainable and circular textiles, including the market for textile reuse. Such strategy is expected for publication in the third quarter of 2021;
    • a Sustainable Products Initiative, to be published by the end of 2021, which will look at ways to increase the durability, repairability, recyclability of various classes of products, including textiles, and will address the presence of harmful chemicals in such products;

  • European Environmental Agency, briefing on ‘Textiles in Europe’s circular economy’;
  • RREUSE (Network of social enterprises active in re-use, repair and recycling):

    • #WardrobeChange recommendations for the EU strategy for sustainable textiles;
    • Publication, ‘Ethical principles for the clothing re-use sector’;

Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform services

  • Matchmaking sessions are two-hour meetings, online or face-to-face. They are designed to bring together a group of policymakers having the expertise and competence to discuss your particular question. For two hours, they are at your disposal to discuss your challenge and offer solutions.
  • Peer-reviews are two-day meetings, online or face-to-face, involving an international team of experts and peers. Based on your specific needs and challenges, peers selected carefully on the basis of targeted calls among the community members, share their expertise for your benefit. After a thorough analysis of your policy context, they provide targeted feedback and offer concrete solutions to you and your stakeholders.

Our Thematic Experts on Environment and resource efficiency are at your disposal and ready to organise a matchmaking or a peer review to help your city, province or region to address any policy challenge that you have. In this brochure you can discover users opinions about our services, including matchmakings and peer reviews.

Look at previous examples of peer reviews on the topic of circular economy: