German waste textiles industry struggles in Covid-19 crisis

Market participants were not always agreed about
the development of collection volumes
07.04.2020 − 

The German waste textiles sector is increasingly struggling with the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Since business operations are almost impossible to plan right now, companies are forced to proceed with extreme caution, a major player told EUWID in late March. And "nobody knows where this is all heading,” the respondent adds. The measures introduced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus require new and flexible adaptations to system processes and economic agreements on an almost hourly basis, commented the textiles division of the German recycling industry association bvse. "In these difficult times, waste textiles companies are in close contact with their contractual partners to find solutions," according to the association.

Local authorities have reportedly shown willingness to cooperate, for example, by granting waste textiles collection firms temporary payment deferrals on the ground rent charged for bring bank sites. In return, the textiles collection firms have pledged to do their best to maintain the collection and recovery capacity for waste textiles, thereby ensuring that this waste stream will continue to be managed.

Market participants were not always agreed about the development of collection volumes. The measures to combat the spread of the virus have meant the cancellation of kerbside textile collections and the closure of many recycling centres. This has resulted in a sharp decline in waste textile volumes in many regions in Germany. Yet at the same time, other market participants say they are seeing slightly higher collection volumes because "people have more time to clear out their wardrobes”.

Collection volumes slump

Overall, however, collection volumes have dropped off markedly. The decline is said to stand at around 20 per cent, especially considering that this is traditionally the time of year with the highest arisings. Charitable organisations that collect waste textiles are seeing the same trend. As a result, sorters have lower inventories of unsorted original stock.

On the sales side, things look "even bleaker”, according to Martin Wittmann, chairman of bvse’s textiles recycling division. The pandemic-related measures imposed worldwide, including "stay-at-home" orders and bans on gatherings, have now hampered the ability to generate "any revenues at all”, he said. Due to government directives, second-hand stores everywhere, including in Eastern Europe, have been forced to close. This has put a complete stop to sales of used clothing, which is generally the profitable sales segment for sorting firms which finances the costs of other operations.

The full report on the waste textiles market will appear in the next print and e-paper issue of EUWID Recycling & Waste Management (8/2020) out on 16 April.

Online subscribers can access the report immediately here: Waste Textiles Germany

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