Too many clothes, but nothing to wear

Charity organizations and social services are increasingly receiving donations of unusable clothing and footwear, which means they need to spend additional money recycling or disposing of these items, according to a charity organization in Rēzekne called “Vēlos palīdzēt” (“I Want to Help”) on February 3.

“I don't have the possibility or want to continue anymore. We always had too few helpers in the warehouse sorting clothes, there were all sorts of unpleasant situations with those receiving help - lies, selling items, even theft,” said “Vēlos palīdzēt” Director Rasma Jēkabsone.

People would donate clothes that have been chewed up by dogs, clothes with patches of mold or holes. The government is currently working on creating a textile recycling and utilization system, but it seems that for a moment many are using charity organizations as an alternative to throwing clothes and shoes in the trash.

After two and a half years of operations, “Vēlos palīdzēt” has become a storage facility for unusable clothes and is closing its doors. Many other organizations have experienced similar problems. Some of the clothes are redistributed to other organizations and local residents, but others will simply end up in landfills.

“I already asked people to donate on social media to help take out the garbage. People donated money, there will be enough for one container,” said Jēkabsone.

Last year a textile recycling pilot program began in the Rīga area, where containers were textile, clothing and footwear recycling containers were placed throughout the area. According to “Latvijas Zaļais punkts” (“Latvian Green Point”) Director Kaspars Zakulis so far 50% of the deposited items can be reused, 30% are garbage and 15% can be recycled.

"People have been very responsive, one container collects about one tonne of this textile waste every month," said Zakulis.

The European Parliament has already approved a package updating waste management rules, which stipulate that textiles must be collected separately and recycled or reused. The pilot project shows that Latvians are already ready for the implementation of this type of system.

As previously reported, clean, but used clothing, shoes, bedding or plush toys can be reprocessed and used again. “It's really a problem that currently huge piles go to landfills or are burned, and can't be recycled as they're next to food. The textile gets dirty, it's wet, you can't use it any more. It's basically trash,” said “Green Liberty” Sustainable Fashion Expert Dace Akule.

Currently no Latvian regulations mention textile recycling, partly because the EU hasn't discussed it before now. Latvia and the Baltic countries currently lack textile recycling facilities for creating new products or materials.

Experts admit that currently the textile collection function is partially covered by charity organizations, which collect unwanted clothes. However experience shows that people frequently don't critically evaluate what they are donating. A majority are unfortunately unusable, or even unrecyclable.

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