THE main thing to understand about clothes recycling is that it is really about re-using, says Ahmed Suleman, the managing director of Savanna Rags International Ltd.
“It’s not like glass or plastic recycling,” he added. “The textiles are not turned back into yarn to make new things. The clothes are sorted and used again. Some of them are turned into rags to make cleaning cloths.”
Mr Suleman is leading the way into the business’s headquarters in Forest Road, Mansfield. He is showing Cllr John Allsop, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for technology and recycling, around the plant.
This is where the contents of 500 Savanna Rags textiles recycling banks, including ones in Amber Valley, are brought.
Mr Suleman is a businessman and, like all businessmen, he seeks to make a profit. But commercial interest isn’t the only motivator. Savanna Rags International is also involved in charity, both here and overseas.
For lift trucks deliver cages of clothes to conveyor belts, where the staff sort the clothes into hoppers labelled things like wool, sheepskin, anoraks, velvet and even something called ‘jazz’ – which is a kind of jersey.
Clothes are sorted by hand into types – by gender, age and fabric. They are then labelled, packaged and sold overseas.
Other clothes and bric-a-brac are packaged and gifted as aid to Africa, with no money changing hands.
Mr Allsop said: “We need to be recycling more. We all buy many more clothes these days than we used to and too much of that is thrown away to end up in landfill.
“It’s fascinating to see how our recycled clothes are dealt with and to think of them getting new owners on the other side of the world.”
Lots of charities have surplus stock. Savanna buys and collects the surplus, saving charities the expense and trouble of dealing with the excess. Savanna also provides clothes banks for other charities – including handling the logistics involved, saving the charities expense and time.
In 2009 Savanna Rags set up Uhuru (Peaceful) Trust, a registered charity, to distribute aid to Africa.
Savanna also works with more than 30 local community groups and charities.
Andy Beig, of Uhuru, said: “In Africa, Zambia in particular, we have supported the delivery of aid such as school uniforms, school books, desks and medical equipment.
“We have also helped to build schools and clinics.”