A predicted 235m items of Britons’ unwanted clothing are expected to end up in landfill unnecessarily this spring, according to new research.
Three-quarters of consumers admit to binning their discarded garments, usually because they do not realise that worn-out or dirty clothes can be recycled or accepted by charities, a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by the supermarket Sainsbury’s has found.
Consumers are expected to get rid of 680m pieces of clothing as they spring-clean their wardrobes, the survey shows. However, the annual fashion detox will be damaging for the environment, with a staggering 235m of the garments expected to end up in landfill. People will dispose of an average of 19 items, with seven going straight in the bin.
Over the past 10 years, clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK. In partnership with the charity Oxfam, Sainsbury’s is urging consumers to donate unwanted clothes to its collection points alongside the traditional recycling bins in its store car parks.
The study also uncovered the reasons people do not donate or recycle clothing, with 49% saying they did not think they could because the clothes were worn out or dirty. A further 16% said they did not have time to visit a charity shop, or could not be bothered to sort items, while 6% did not realise clothing could be recycled.
Men are more likely to send clothes to landfill, with 82% saying they would bin items this spring compared with 69% of women.
“If clothes go out with the rubbish, they’ll end up in landfill, so we’ve teamed up with Oxfam to help Britons become more charitable and environmentally savvy this spring,” said Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury’s. “No matter if they’re worn out or grubby, we’re calling on shoppers to donate their unwanted clothes at recycling points in our stores across the UK.”
Fee Gilfeather, head of retail brand for Oxfam, added: “At Oxfam we can reuse or recycle almost anything. The items donated through Sainsbury’s raise millions, helping us continue our vital work to end extreme poverty around the world.”
Marks & Spencer also has a partnership with Oxfam, which began in January 2008. Donors handing old M&S clothing in to Oxfam stores receive a £5 M&S voucher, while its “shwopping”scheme encourages customers to hand over an old or unwanted garment whenever they buy a new one. Figures show that 27m garments have been “shwopped” since 2008.
Separately, the retailer TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK are urging people to “give up clothes for good” in a bid to raise money to help beat children’s cancer.
The government’s waste advisory body Wrap has set up the Love Your Clotheswebsite to give advice on choosing clothing designed to last longer, buying second-hand clothes, using energy-efficient laundry methods that keep clothes looking good, as well as donating, swapping or selling unwanted items. The site also shows how clothes too damaged to be worn can still be donated for recycling instead of ending up in the bin.