What is the environmental impact of clothing?
The textile industry contributes around 10% of global greenhouse emissions and 20% of global waste water production. This is more than shipping and aviation combined. With proper collection and sortation, many items of clothing can be reused to give them a new lease of life.
The UK has the highest consumption of new clothing in Europe, with the average person buying 26.7kg of new clothes each year. The average lifetime for a piece of clothing is estimated to be 2.2 years leading to around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes either being burned or sent to landfills on an annual basis.
How can I reduce my impact?
Reducing the environmental impact our clothing has can be split in 2 ways: Buying and Binning.
Buying new clothes is necessary, but can contribute negatively to the environment, with pollution from clothes dyes and wastewater affecting ecosystems. As such, reducing the environmental impact of our textiles starts here.
‘Fast Fashion’ is one of the largest contributors to clothing waste in the UK. Some retail companies churn out the latest trends for as cheap as they can, often choosing to use less durable materials in order to keep costs down. The result of this is that the clothes we buy have a much shorter lifespan than clothes we may have bought 10 years ago. These trends tend to be short lived, only lasting for a few months before something else replaces them. The obvious way we can reduce our environmental impact is to buy less. Assess when you buy clothes whether you really need them or whether you are simply buying them to follow the latest trend. When you need to buy new clothes, spend time researching which ones will last the longest. It is cheaper to buy one good quality pair of jeans that will last for 3 years, rather than a cheaper pair of jeans which you will have to replace every year.
Many clothes in the UK are thrown away for simple reasons, like a missing button or a small tear. We should be asking ourselves; Can I mend it? Quite often it can be an easy quick fix and would stop many items from being discarded. Easy to follow online guides and tutorials are readily available and can make a real difference in helping to reduce our waste.
What can I do with my unwanted clothes?
There are many ways to reuse old fabrics to save them being thrown away. These are just some examples you can do at home:
- Old sheets can be used to protect floors when decorating or doing DIY
- Old t-shirts can be cut up and used as rags for cleaning
- Old fabrics can become something new! Use them to design and make the next ‘World Book Day’ costume
Clothes that you no longer want can also be donated in various ways for re-use. Instead of discarding clothing that is still wearable, consider donating them in the following ways:
- You can use our free tool to post old or unwanted clothes direct to The Salvation Army. Supporting charity and reducing clothing waste. What’s not to like?
- Many high street retailers offer clothing donation bins in-store. You can find your nearest recycling point on our locator
- If the clothes are still in very good condition, you could consider selling them on sites such as Vinted, eBay or Facebook Marketplace
Items that aren’t suitable for re-use or donating to charity can be recycled and repurposed into new items. Make sure old clothes and shoes are disposed of at recycling points rather than being put into the bin and destined for landfill. You can use our locator to find a clothing recycling bank near you.
So don’t forget, to help reduce your environmental impact – buy less! And when it does come time to clear out your wardrobe – repair, reuse, recycle and donate!