Salvation Army's £30K scanner can tell if donated clothes are wearable

End of the moth-eaten charity shop jumper? The Salvation Army’s futuristic £30K scanner can detect if donated clothes are unwearable – before sending duds to be transformed into reusable wool

  • Warehouse in Northampton is using government-funded scanner to sort clothes
  • West Yorkshire textile recycling firm Iinouiio turns unwearable clothes into wool
  • The Salvation Army charity hopes the pilot project will prevent clothes being sent to landfill and provide a ‘wool revolution’  

A new state-of-the-art Salvation Army scanner can detect whether donated clothes can be sold on or are ‘unwearable’.

The innovative scheme, based at a warehouse in Kettering, Northamptonshire, aims to use the £30,000 technology to turn even the most shabby clothes into something new – with thread from unwearable clothes turned into wool instead. 

Charity The Salvation Army hopes its new machine will turn dud donations into new clothes, rather than the fabric being sent to landfill or for incineration, which damages the environment.

Although only 2 per cent of the 250 million items donated end up being ditched as waste, the charity is hoping it reduce that figure even further the futuristic new scanner. 

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Old clothes made new again: A Kettering-based factory is using the £30K government scanner to sort donated clothes, so they can be sent in bales to be processed into wool if they can’t be sold on

West Yorkshire based factory owners Linda and John Parkinson first wanted to try a sustainable approach back in the 90s. Finally, with the help of The Salvation Army, the factory is processing donated clothes into wool so they don’t end up at landfill sites

The government-funded super-scanner detects the type and colour of garments that are deemed too scruffy or damaged to sell in charity shops and sorts them into wool, cotton, polyester or viscose. 

They are then sent to a textiles mill in Huddersfield to be turned back into yarn to be used to make new jumpers, cardigans and socks.

A cashmere cardi goes through the scanner and a screen declares it to be ‘100 per cent wool’, which is fabric gold dust in the recycling world. 

The wool garment is taken from the conveyor belt and into a basket for colored wool. From here, it’s journey into becoming new material will begin. 

Wrap and The Salvation Army are trialling the pilot scheme for a new vision of circular fashion – with the historic charity hoping to become the UK’s first ‘fibre farm’ for charity shop clothes donations.

Kirk Bradley, head of business development at the Salvation Army’s Trading company, which is the charity’s recycling arm – told the Sunday Times ‘Our hope is that we can close the loop, resupply unwearable textile fibre into manufacturing and reduce demands on resources.

‘We have a responsibility to look after the environment and try to leave the world a better place.’

A textile recycling firm in West Yorkshire, Iinouiio, will take on the job of transforming those clothes back into wool.

The Salvation Army clothing donation bins are stationed all around the UK. A cashmere jumper that is deemed unwearable is ‘gold dust’ for the wool business 

Iinouiio stands for ‘it is never over until it is over’; the couple behind the brand, John Parkinson and his wife Linda, first introduced the idea of repurposing old fabrics in the 90s but say ‘the world wasn’t ready for us’ and they were forced to shut up shop – only to recently see their dream revived.

The idea was inspired by Parkinson’s father, who had worked in the ‘shoddy trade’, which transformed old fabrics into wool, a concept that was eventually killed by the rise of large factories producing new wool. 

Linda told The Sunday Times attitudes have changed: ‘When we were growing up, it was a shameful thing to have hand-me-downs and clothes from jumble sales. Now I feel guilty if I buy new. People’s mindsets are changing.’

The couple have even been looking at collaborating with suit makers in Saville Row in a bid to save expensive offcuts from being binned.

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