New accreditation standard for textile recyclers trading with charity shops

A new accreditation standard, TRUST (Trader Recycling Universal Standard), has been established for recyclers who trade with charity shops.

TRUST is the result of a coalition formed to improve standards within the recycling sector, and has the backing of more than 2,500 charity shops across the UK. The coalition includes representatives from the Charity Retail Association, Textile Recycling Association (TRA), charity retail chains, academics, waste reduction charities and textile recyclers.

An image of a charity clothing bank

The Environment Agency (EA), the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum and the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) all had an input in the creation of the standard.

The standard applies to recyclers that buy unsold donated goods, such as clothing and books, from charity shops so that they get an income from them, before they are reused or recycled. The charity retail sector deals in a significant amount of material, with 330,000 tonnes of textiles collected every year, making the sector attractive to fraudsters.

To become accredited with the standard, recyclers must meet a series of tests across five categories: health and safety; sound business practice; labour; environment; and transport. Textile recyclers will be required to demonstrate that they meet this standard by completing a pre-audit questionnaire (PAQ) before being inspected by an independent auditor. The accreditation will then last for two years.

British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Salvation Army, Sue Ryder and Royal Trinity Hospice have indicated that in the future they will only deal with TRUST-accredited recycling organisations when trading items that cannot be sold in store.

The standard will also be available for councils and retailers to refer to when choosing who to work with or licence to carry out door-to-door collections in local authorities.

The TRUST logo


Charity Retail Association Chief Executive, Robin Osterley, said: “There are many recyclers out there whose business practices are exemplary, but sadly there are also a few who fall short of the standards we would expect.

“This initiative, supported by many of the largest charity retailers and others, will go a long way to ensuring competitive advantage for those who are doing the right thing, and provide comfort for charity retailers that they are dealing with reputable and healthy organisations.”

TRA Director, Alan Wheeler, said: “We have for many years had a transparent and robust membership application procedure that has aimed to ensure that only professional businesses that adhere to relevant waste, employment and health and safety laws are afforded membership.

“With the introduction of TRUST, our members will be able to demonstrate this outwardly through this independent audit process.”

The new accreditation standard is welcome news in a sector that has been plagued with criminality. According to the TRA, some 750 clothing banks were stolen across the UK between January and March 2018, costing charities around £370,000 in donations, while warnings have previously been released about fake and unlicensed charity clothing bank operators.

The textiles recycling industry has also seen incidents of modern slavery, where vulnerable individuals are forced to work unpaid, often carrying out collections of donated bags of textiles or being forced to steal clothing from collection banks. In 2014, for example, a 53-year-old Lithuanian woman was sentenced to three years in prison for trafficking people to work in squalid conditions collecting charity textile bags.

You can find out more about the new accreditation standard on TRUST’s website.

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