A new piece of industry research has found that previous estimates of the amount of clothes donations being stolen are over-stated.
The report by the Textile Recycling Association shows a marked decrease in textile theft across London, with as few as 1.8 per cent of doorstep donations being stolen in the boroughs where the investigations took place.
Previous estimates had suggested that up to £50 million a year was being lost to UK charities, whereas other estimates suggested that up to 15 per cent of all used clothing donations were being stolen.
Conducted by LRS Consultancy along with partners LM Barry & Co and Clothes Aid, the research is the first of its kind to quantify actual theft in a defined geographic area.
It investigated both doorstep collections and textile banks.
The report also identified a number of reasons why textile theft had fallen so dramatically, including a fall in textile prices and proactive policing.
Textile Recycling Association director Alan Wheeler said: “It’s really good to know that the vast majority of donated clothes are being collected as they should be, with much of the money raised going to charitable causes or for the benefit of the taxpayer. We had anecdotal evidence that thefts were in decline but no solid figures to reassure the public.”
The number of thefts reported to the police within the M25 area has gone down from 110 in 2011 to only 14 so far in 2014.
Thefts from textile banks were higher than doorstep collections but still reduced from previous estimates.
The research found that up to approximately 4.7 tonnes of textiles could potentially have been stolen from 32 different banks across three boroughs across the trial – a loss representing around 10 per cent of the total amount of clothing collected during the trial.
LM Barry director Ross Barry added: “In the last year, we’ve seen a definite reduction in theft and that’s partly as a result of introducing stronger banks and improved chute designs which have stopped people either climbing in or cutting the bank open.
“But 10 per cent still represents a reasonably high percentage, so using the recommendations from this research, we’ll keep improving bank designs to cut down on theft – while making sure they remain easy for the public to use.”
The report also makes a range of recommendations about anti-theft initiatives, and these are being shared with textile bank operators across the capital to reduce theft further.