Exports of Nordic Used Textiles

Fate, benefits and impacts

image of Exports of Nordic Used Textiles

The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Green Growth Initiative highlighted the need for comprehensive collection, reuse and recycling of used textiles as part of a circular economy.

Over 100 000 tonnes of used textiles are already collected each year in Nordic countries. This is for the most part carried out by charities to fund their charitable activities. Around three quarters of these textiles are sold on global markets.

Does the export of used textiles support the circular economy through reuse and recycling, or are we simply exporting waste to countries that don’t have the facilities to deal with it? And does the export have a negative effect on textile industries in receiving countries?

This report answers these questions by tracking flows of exports to their final destinations, and by estimating the socio-economic and environmental impacts arising from their subsequent treatment.



Mapping Textile Exports

Mapping of textiles flows has already been carried out under a number of previous projects for the Nordic Council of Ministers and for individual countries (Tojo et al., 2012; Palm et al., 2014; Watson et al., 2014, Elander et al. 2014). Under those projects, flows of used textiles within Nordic countries were mapped using both data from national statistics offices and from direct contact with collecting organisations, waste authorities etc. The studies include estimations and calculations of exports of used textiles from the Nordic countries but did not investigate in any depth the end destination for these textiles.


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