TRAID and many other charities, rely on donations made by you, the UK public, at textile banks to stock our charity shops. But they are under threat.

Our Taking Stock report launched today, reveals that while an overwhelming majority of textile banks users expect their clothes donations to benefit charities, over two-thirds have no idea that many textile banks are run by commercial companies which profit from their donations.

Many charities with shops depend on the support of local authorities to operate textile banks on council-owned land. However, councils are increasingly asking for substantial fees for the right to operate textile-banks. Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that today, more local authorities in England are now partnering with commercial companies, rather than charities.

If charging expensive fees to place textile banks become the new normal, it poses a serious threat to clothes donations, a vital fundraising avenue for many of our members.

Crucially, our research shows that this growing trend is completely at odds with what textile bank users expect with 67% unaware that their clothes donations might benefit a commercial company. When armed with this knowledge, the majority of people have a clear preference for giving their clothes to a charity operator.

  • 88% would prefer to use a textile bank run by a charity
  • 79% think local councils should award all textile bank contracts to charities and
  • 95% believe textile banks should be clearly labelled to show who profits from clothes donations

We understand the financial pressures councils are facing, but it is vital that charities are not squeezed out to be replaced by commercial companies.

The charity sector brings huge economic, environmental and social value. In addition to raising around £295m for good causes each year, our work to keep clothes in use also significantly reduces waste and carbon emissions as well as saving local authorities £28m of Landfill tax in the process.

In light of these challenges, TRAID has proposed three easy to implement recommendations: –

  • Greater transparency about who benefits from clothes put into textile banks
  • A commitment from local authorities to ensure that at least 60% of textile banks on council-owned land are charity-led
  • A commitment from local authorities seeking to raise funds from commercial companies that existing charity textile banks will not be removed

Maria Chenoweth, CEO at TRAID says, “These recommendations create a fairer solution to suit all parties while continuing the provide the UK public with the opportunity to support charities with their clothes donations, which they so clearly want. We are not asking councils to stop making commercial decisions. We are asking them to ensure that charities are not the victim of commercial decisions.”

The Charity Retail Association, the umbrella group for charities with charity shops agrees. Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of the CRA said, “TRAID has highlighted some of the growing problems charities face, especially in the rising annual sums that a number of councils are now asking for the right to place a textile bank. Such policies seem to be at odds with public awareness and public attitudes.”

He added, “We fully endorse TRAID’s report recommendations, which are flexible and reasonable enough in allowing councils to still take commercial decisions, but would not remove any more of these vital sources of stock from our communities.”

There are still many examples of excellent partnerships between local authorities and charities, and many councils acknowledge the environmental and social contributions charities provide, and understand the importance of supporting us.

It is to these partnerships and to our recommendations, that we hope more local authorities will look to ensure commercial companies to do not push out charities, but instead that councils will wisent to their residents who clearly want and expect to support charities with their clothes donations.

Download the summary version of the Taking Stock report here

Download the full version of the Taking Stock report here