Here we answer frequently asked questions about all aspects of TEXAID and the recycling of used clothes:

Since the emergence of the paper-making industry in the early modern period.

Used clothes are collected in all countries.

TEXAID is made up of the TEXAID working group and TEXAID Textilverwertungs-AG. The TEXAID working group is a consortium of the aid organisations:

  • Swiss Red Cross
  • Winterhilfe Switzerland
  • Solidar Suisse
  • Caritas Switzerland
  • Kolping Switzerland
  • Relief Organisation of the Protestant Churches of Switzerland (HEKS)

The TEXAID working group runs TEXAID Textilverwertungs-AG together with a private investor in the form of a charity private partnership.

The six reputed Swiss aid organisations involved in TEXAID traditionally collected used clothes for their own direct aid programmes. In 1978 they came together to found the collection organisation 'TEXAID-Arbeitsgemeinschaft'. They established the framework for the professional collection, sorting and recycling of used clothes and shoes by opening the sorting facility in Schattdorf in the Canton of Uri. A proportion of the sales proceeds goes to the aid organisations and directly benefits their relief work.

The aid organisations involved in TEXAID do not see it as their task to run a company that collects, sorts and recycles used clothes on a professional basis. That is why they founded TEXAID Textilverwertungs-AG together with an expert in the recycling of used textiles.

In recent years, there has been a steep increase in the global demand for good, wearable clothes. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, in African countries, second-hand goods from Europe are a sought-after alternative to synthetic fibre textiles from Asia. Secondly, the opening-up of the markets in Eastern Europe has resulted in greater need for good, fashionable clothing, leading to a constant increase in demand. Finally, there has been a radical change of attitude among buyers in Western Europe, with the priority now being on conserving resources and protecting the environment.

Our aim is to recycle textiles and preserve resources as a result. TEXAID achieves a second-hand value of around 65 per cent,  well above the European industry average of around 45 to 50 per cent.

  • Around 35 per cent of the items collected are badly damaged textiles or non-textile materials . Around half of these, i.e. 15 per cent, can be made into cleaning cloths that are used in industry for cleaning and polishing. Another 15 per cent are sent for textile recycling – they are shredded and mixed with other materials to be made into raw materials, or transformed into insulating materials.
  • Only 5 per cent of the items collected are textile waste or non-textile materials that cost money to dispose of or are sent for appropriate separate collection. 

Over 50,000 tonnes of used clothes and textiles are disposed of annually throughout Switzerland. TEXAID collects about 38,000 tonnes. Demand from clothing stores and crisis regions accounts for only a small part of the volume collected. The task is to recycle the considerable remainder of used textiles sustainably and in an environmentally responsible way so that no additional mountains of waste are created.

Working in close collaboration with our charity partners, we ensure that the proceeds from the sale of used textiles help aid organisations to carry out their relief work. The charities themselves do not have the necessary know-how to process the large volumes of used clothes properly.

The sustainable recycling of used textiles involves a lot of work as well being associated with high material, energy and staff costs, all of which must be covered.

TEXAID sells used clothes and shoes in its own second-hand shops. It also exports sorted old clothes to Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Asia and Africa. Unsorted textiles that have been separated from obvious waste are sold to sorting facilities in Italy, Belgium and Eastern Europe.

Some of the used clothes are exported to African countries.

There have been frequent negative reports in the media about the export of used textiles to Africa, with claims that exporting used textiles destroys the local textile industries.

The decline of the textile industries in African countries is due to many different factors:

  • International trade agreements such as the global Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (1995) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (2000) encouraged the development of the textile industry in certain African countries. The local textile industry vanished after these agreements expired. This had nothing to do with imports of used clothing.
  • In recent decades, the international textile industry has largely relocated to Asia, where it has found low-cost production facilities. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs migrating to Asia, not just from Africa but also from Europe and America.
  • In a statement by the German government in response to a question from the Alliance 90/The Greens political party, local factors were considered responsible for the decline of the African textile industry. These included poor general economic framework conditions, political and legal instability, a lack of productivity in companies and the distortion of competition, for instance due to high customs duties on textile raw materials.

It should also be noted that the further processing of and trading in used textiles is an important part of the economy in many African countries that creates thousands of jobs.

Textile recycling can only exist without the sale of used clothes if the consumer pays for the textile recycling either directly or indirectly.