I interviewed Tom Boersma who discussed Opportunities for Textile Recycling Industry in US.
Can you first talk about the supply chain in the textile industry in the US?
Yes, I'll use ourselves as an example. There's roughly 25 billion pounds of textiles generated per year, that's about 80 pounds per US resident, of which only 15% is recycled – recycled through thrift stores or recyclers like Global Clothing Industries.
We purchase all the excess textile products and accessories from Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and other thrift stores, Salvation Army, in eastern Mississippi. There's only about 500 recyclers like ourselves in the United States. More of the companies are five to 30 employees. Global Clothing, we employ about 160 people, so we're one of the larger companies in the industry.
So, we're handling 15% of all of textile products being recycled. There's a tremendous opportunity nationally because there's so much available product to be recycled.
Where are the pain points in the supply chain?
The pain points... I'll give you two examples. Last year we predominantly sold to Sierra Leone, Africa and Liberia, Africa. And as most people will recall, there was the Ebola going around. That really minimized our problems. So, depending on where you focus on, you need to have backup areas to sell in.
Probably the most striking thing this year is China. China is coming in for the used clothes market, and they are underselling all US suppliers. Their economy is very tight. They've devalued their money system. They're selling a container from anywhere from $5000 - $6000 less than what we normally do.
So, the foreign competition is really kicking in.
How can these problems be addressed effectively?
Currently, we're sending employees to our market areas, evaluating the other country's imports into, for example, western Africa, and doing quality studies and comparison. Likewise, we're putting technology into our partner's hands, the people that we sell to. We're providing computer [inaudible 00:03:32] so they can see where their container is on the water coming to them and what is specifically in there.
Do you have any good examples of success?
Success in our company has been tremendous in the last year. The company has done so well. We have purchased baling machines from Italy that allow stronger production with less employee hours involved. So, we're doubling our production with 50% of the people on the two machines that we bought last year. We're buying two more machines this year, so that's going to increase the productivity.
Another good success has been we've put together training manuals teaching our employees what to look for in the quality, sort area, thereby delivering a much higher quality product to the developing countries. Those are probably two of the greater examples.
Thank you, Tom, for sharing today on the opportunities for textile recycling in the US.
You're very welcome. It was good talking with you.
About Tom Boersma
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