The reuse journey

When we talk about sending zero to landfill, what do we mean? Let’s take a look at the onward journey of products we collect, and what happens to them.

What happens to the products we handle?

Once your items are with us, they enter a rigorous process of grading and sorting, designed to maximise the reuse potential of everything we receive. We use our own people and sites to do this, and we also use third-party graders. All our third-party partners are checked and audited by us, to ensure they follow the highest standards and ethical working practices.

How we grade product

All items are sorted into one of four categories:
Premium grade
First grade
Second grade
Third grade

What is premium grade?

These are new items, often with price tags still attached. They are quality vintage or branded products with a high value. These items are often referred to as ‘cream’ product and this grade is highly sought after in the retail markets. These are sold onto either UK retailers (vintage shops/online shops) where there is a higher resale value, or Eastern European retailers.

What is first grade?

Essentially these are products still in good condition with plenty of second life potential, typically tee-shirts, jumpers and shorts. If textiles then they will still be wearable, so there is plenty of life left in them, but they don’t make the premium grade cut.

We categorise each item (e.g. tee-shirts, shorts, jumpers, coats etc) and we also group and then bale them in the same season. So we group winter products together and summer products together.

This means we can put these products into markets that are climate sensitive – hotter climates do not need UK winter wardrobe staples for example. We are also culturally sensitive with what textiles get sent to which global markets.

What is second grade?

These items have reuse potential, but are not in top condition. These tend to be sold onto less affluent markets in developing countries, where budgets need to stretch further.

What is third grade?

These are clothing items which have reached the end of their wearable life but have a value in being repurposed. These items are sent out to our third-party partners in Asia, where they’re handled by a processing plant for upcycling or downcycling.

First of all, they’re sub-categorised into different materials, which dictates their onward use.
The majority of items have their zips and buttons removed, and all the absorbent zero-shedding fabrics are cut into wiping cloths. This is the primary use for this grade of product, which is in high demand around the globe.

The other thing we do with third grade textiles is to identify certain material types for different uses – so for example cottons and poly cottons are then graded by colour, and sold onto companies who pull the fabric back into yarn, which is then sold full circle back into the manufacturing stream – for example denim.

Anything that’s left from this sorting process goes on to be repurposed in other industries (in the industry this is referred to as ‘mutilated’) and has uses as insulation, furniture fillings, in mattresses and more.

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