Our info center offers interesting information and knowledge on the subject of used textiles. Have a look around!

Why is used clothing so important?

For us, used clothing is a valuable resource that should remain (...) more

in the textile cycle as long as possible. The fact that this is urgently necessary is demonstrated in an analysis of the manufacturing process of textiles. The production of a T-shirt requires the natural material cotton, for example. Growing cotton requires the cultivation of soil, the cotton plants have to be irrigated and fertilized as well as treated with pesticides.

After harvesting, chemicals are used to process the raw cotton, with further use of chemicals in the production of the clothing in order to dye the garments and improve the wearing comfort of the material.
In total, the manufacture of a single T-shirt requires more than 2,000 liters of water, with the production of a pair of jeans using up over 5,000 liters of water. These are joined by transport distances of tens of thousands of kilometers from production to the consumer, increasing the amount of CO2 emissions as a consequence.
And then, after a few months of being worn, the item of clothing is discarded, ends up in the trash and is destroyed. The landfills are spilling over and highly-toxic fumes are generated during incineration. New clothing is required, with the consequence that the cycle begins anew – because on average every German buys more than 20 kilos of textiles per year.
To break this system and keep the resources in the cycle the SOEX GROUP gives used textiles a new lease of life. Resources are saved and waste avoided. In this way, the SOEX GROUP makes a sustainable contribution to protecting the environment.

How does the used clothing reach the SOEX GROUP?

SOEX purchases the used clothing from various partners, (...) more

in accordance with the applicable statutory regulations. The largest portion of the used clothing is collected by the subsidiaries EFIBA and Retextil.It is important to mention here that we and our partner companies strictly observe the legal and statutory requirements in all phases, i.e. from collection to sorting and on to the recycling of the used textiles.

How can I tell if the collection is a legal one or one merely pretending to be a charitable one?

Collectors pretending to be charitable organizations frequently (...) more

mask themselves as charitable or do not state a purpose for the collection. Containers are often positioned using apparently charitable logos and without permission. People are often unable to judge if the collection is legal or illegal.
Skepticism is warranted if you find flyers in your mail box or collection boxes are placed in front of the door bearing merely a cell phone number, with the full address of the responsible organization missing. Symbols are often used that are similar to those of charitable organizations. The same also applies for illegally positioned containers.
In addition to sowing uncertainty in the minds of donors, the destination of the collected goods and their subsequent utilization are often unclear. In these cases it is not possible to find evidence of forwarding of proceeds to a charitable organization or the appropriate recycling of the used clothing.
SOEX cooperates intensively with the Bundesverband Sekundärrohstoffe und Recycling e.V., a federal association dealing with secondary resources and recycling, to develop a strategy to counteract the illegal positioning of containers and illegal collection.

What can I do if I suspect that a collection is pretending to be charitable?

Keep the collection flyer or note the address of the illegally (...) more

positioned container and contact your responsible public authority.
In Germany: You can also search in the electronic registration portal to find out if the organization being collected for actually exists.
In the UK: Does the sack or leaflet say the collection is for a registered charity?
If so, what is the registered charity number?
To check that it is genuine call 0845 3000 218 or visit the online register of charities at: www.charitycommission.gov.uk
If you are uncertain, do not hand over the used clothing, instead find out where the Red Cross collection containers are located.

Will my donation destroy textile industries abroad?

Although the reuse of used textiles makes a remarkable (...) more

contribution to protecting resources and the environment, in the past the media has frequently reported negatively, repeatedly claiming that the export of used textiles leads to the destruction of local textile industries in developing and threshold countries.
Whilst it is true that the local textile industry collapsed in many countries, applying the statement to all export countries is difficult as development varies from country to country. Overall, it can be stated that a combination of causes resulted in the situation.
- International trade agreements: Globally-applicable treaties such as the Multi-Fiber Agreement (1974), the World Textile Agreement (1995), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (2000) have all influenced the development and distribution of the textile industry worldwide. In some countries a textile industry would never have emerged without these agreements, as the necessary prerequisites did not exist. After these agreements lapsed, the textile industry also disappeared – regardless of the import of used clothing.

- Shifting of the textile industry to Asia: In recent decades there has been a clear shift in the textile industry to Asia. As production is cheaper elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in this sector. Not only in Germany, Great Britain and the USA, but also in Africa. This is joined by the fact that Asian textiles are cheaper and edge out local products.- General causes: Frequently decline can be traced to unclear ownership issues, macro-economic instability, corruption, state intervention in private companies, lack of productivity, obsolete machinery, political risks and a lack of infrastructure.In a statement of the German government it is apparent that the textile industry had already collapsed prior to the beginning of textile imports and that the textile industry in a number of African countries, such as Tunisia, grew, and is still growing, despite imports. In addition, many people in the recipient countries have found a means of earning money as a result of the imports.

The states themselves also generate revenue from the high duties that they impose on imports.
If you wish to learn more about this subject: the book "The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy" by Pietra Rivoli will provide you with more information.

Why will my donation not be handed out free of charge to needy people, but instead sold as goods?

Every year more than 700,000 tons of used clothing are donated (...) more

in Germany. However, the quantity donated far exceeds the demand, both in Germany and in regions in crisis. As a consequence, only part of this clothing goes to needy individuals in Germany.
To ensure that the remainder does not end up as waste and to make sure that good comes out of your donation, this clothing is then sold to commercial textile recyclers, such as SOEX, transforming them into a financial donation.
The charitable organizations receive a financial sum for each kilo, which they in turn use for charitable and social work. In emergencies this money can then be used to purchase clothing and blankets locally, as the cost of transporting these from Germany is too high.
In addition, charitable organizations do not have the know-how and the capacity for sorting and recycling that are required in order to utilize the used clothing appropriately and are dependent upon collaboration with professional textile recyclers. For example: sorting specialists are trained for over three months before they can be employed to full effect in a sorting segment.

What happens to the used clothing after it has been received by SOEX?

Our philosophy is Zero Waste. We do not reject, we grade and sort (...) more

– until there is nothing left to sort. And this is why the used clothing collected is transported to our plant in Wolfen. The plant is certified according to DIN-EN-ISO 9001: 2008 for sorting and recycling as a specialist plant – in other words: this is where the experts are. They grade the used clothing according to up to 350 criteria and sort throughout the European waste hierarchy, as shown in the illustration.
The highest priority in this is the prevention of waste; which is why the wearable clothing is marketed in over 90 countries worldwide. This grants the clothing a new lease of life, saves resources and eases the burden on the environment.
Clothing and shoes which can no longer be worn are processed into cleaning cloths or into insulation material at our in-house recycling plant. Even dust waste generated in the manufacture of insulation materials is pressed into dust briquettes and used in the manufacture of paper.
These efforts have enabled us to further reduce the proportion of waste in recent years.
Everything that cannot be reused or recycled is disposed of appropriately.

Is there really only used clothing in the collecting containers?

No. Our staff regularly has to remove household waste and electronic waste. (...) more

In 2011 there was 30 tons of electronic waste! Of course, we dispose of this appropriately and do not sell it on.
Occasionally we make some very curious finds. Some of our colleagues say that "There is nothing that we haven't found yet." The most unusual was a small tortoise. It now lives with a colleague and has recovered from the shock its journey.

What exactly belongs in the used clothing collection container?

Essentially, the rule is: everything that can still be worn (...) more

can go for used clothing collection. This includes:
- Clothing for men, women, children and babies
- Underwear
- shoes – always bundled in pairs
- Soft toys, such as cuddly toys
- Handbags, wallets and purses
- Household textiles: towels, tablecloths, bed linen, curtains
- Featherbeds (no foam material)

What does not belong in the used clothing collection container? 

The following items are best placed in household trash (...) more

or the relevant recycling point:
- Wet, damaged and heavily soiled textiles, such as clothing used in renovation work - Single shoes, broken shoes, roller skates, ski boots, army and rubber boots as well as orthopedic shoes
- Carpets, mattresses, rubber mats
- Hard toys
- Household items and other utility items
- Electrical devices, cloths and other waste

What can I do as an individual to ensure clothing is treated in an environmentally-friendly way?

Consumption of clothing has changed greatly in recent decades. (...) more

The fashion cycle has been shortened significantly in order to ramp up consumption amongst consumers. It is assumed that every German purchases more than 20 kilograms of clothing every year – and this needs room in the closet. And because in contrast to the quantity the budget of the individual has not increased, cheap alternatives are frequently sought, often of a lower quality. In other words: the manufacture of these goods consumes many resources – but the lifetime of the textiles has been reduced.
Pay attention to quality and composition when buying clothing. The longer an item of clothing is in use, the more the consumption of water, cotton etc. in its manufacturing pays off. In addition, it is easier to recycle clothing that consists of only one material, such as a T-shirt made from 100% cotton.
Leave your clothes to dry in the open air after washing, instead of using the dryer.
Think if ironing is really necessary – this also uses a lot of electricity.
Buy clothes at flea markets and in secondhand stores. This saves resources. Our stores can be found here.
And: if clothing can still be worn, avoid disposing into the household waste.