The fashion industry is a major contributor to the ongoing pollution of our planet today. Government research estimates that textile and fashion production accounts for 20% of wastewater and 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, which is more than aviation and shipping combined.
The business model for the fashion industry actively encourages consumers to buy new designs not just every season but every week and to always be seen wearing different outfits.
One of the most significant opportunities to reduce carbon, water and waste is to increase the lifespan of our clothing.
Figures for UK textiles consumption show UK households spend an estimated £52.7bn a year on clothing – mostly garments (£47.39bn), clothing fabrics (£0.86bn) and clothing accessories such as ties, scarves, and gloves (£4.48bn).
This amounts to around 5% of total household spend, with a further £1bn spent on cleaning (such as dry cleaning), repair and hire of clothing.
Research, undertaken by WRAP, also showed that UK households continue to buy more clothing and that spending on clothing has increased by 3% a year on average in the five years to 2018.
Steps are being taken to improve sustainability, but we can take steps to help achieve a circular economy where products are used again and again. The power of this change lies with consumer buying behaviours, and to become aware of how to buy.
Even though 95% of discarded clothing can be reused or recycled, nearly 73% of it ends up being burnt or in a landfill.
What can you do
Reduce your consumption
- Buy only what you need.
- Wear what you have got for longer – extending the wear of a garment for nine months. can reduce the environmental impact by 20-30% (Can fashion ever be sustainable? – BBC Future).
- Swap unwanted clothing with family and friends.
- Try a swishing party.
- Buy second-hand or vintage clothing – try charity shops, and online platforms, and check if your children’s school sells second-hand uniforms.
- Buy the best quality you can within your budget and follow the care instructions on the label to prolong the life of the garment.
- Repair clothing. Somerset has a great set of repair groups, many of which can offer simple clothing repairs and use online guides (see below).
Sell it on
- Make some money by selling unwanted clothing. Reselling a cotton T-shirt second-hand – versus throwing it away – reduce its carbon impact by 14%.
- From eBay to Vinted (see below), there are lots of online ways to sell unwanted, good-quality clothes generating some cash while reducing the demand for new clothing.
- Care boot sales are another option, to find your nearest one try Carbootjunction.com
Pass it on
- Donate to charity shops, helping a good cause while giving clothes a second life use Charity Shop Locator to find out where you are nearest.
- Donate to textile banks or give unwanted clothing to family or friends.
- Declutter your wardrobe by giving away any unwanted items when you buy a new one.
- Use online platforms, like Freegle and Freecycle (see below).
- Reuse is always best. If you can’t reuse your old clothing through the suggestions above, then reusable clothing and shoes can be placed out at the curbside for recycling or taken to a recycling site.
They need to be of good enough quality to be worn again and out in a tied bag (but not a black sack) to keep them dry and put on top of a recycling box.
- Check whether your local charity shop will accept ‘rags’ for recycling. If they do, always bag separately and clearly label.