Posted by Louise Bowe, WRAP
WRAP is the UK specialist on waste matters. We advise and work with all four UK governments, local councils, a wide range of businesses and the general public. For us it’s all about changes we can all make to waste less and recycle more at home or at work – using the earth’s resources as well as we can and saving money for everybody in the process.
We work with a range of businesses to reduce the energy and materials in everything from house-building and DIY goods to baked beans, beer, TVs and jeans! We work with councils and recycling businesses across the UK to help them collect high quality materials for recycling and re-use from the public and businesses. Helping them realise the true financial value from things we no longer need and making sure those precious materials are used again and don’t end up in a landfill site.
The way we buy and wear clothes has a major social and financial impact on our lives. The average household spends around £1,700 a year on buying clothes, second only to food and drink in terms of spending on consumable goods.
This makes clothing a really important area to tackle, and the ‘Valuing our clothes’ report provides the first “big picture” overview of the issue. It covers opportunities and potential savings for both businesses and consumers. There are actions we can all take to get more “value” from the resources used in supplying, using and disposing of clothes.
The report includes some truly incredible information and statistics. For instance, we have around a staggering £30 billion worth of clothes which we haven’t worn for a year hanging in our wardrobes! That’s over £1,000-worth of clothes for the average household, which is great for the moths, but little else!
A great stat I think readers would agree, but when we take a moment and actually think back to our own wardrobes at home, it is easy to begin to see how the figures stack up.
Believe it or not, nearly half of us at least put some clothes in the bin. Our research showed that people say they do this because they don’t think it could be used again for any other purpose, yet this is far from the truth. In fact, clothes that we throw away are worth around £140 million!
One option is to sell our clothes on websites such as Preloved - a chance to make a bit of money from them. Another option is to give the clothes to friends and family - why not de-clutter whilst getting a few brownie points in the process? Clothes can also be given to charity shops, allowing them to make money for good causes.
Remember, even if clothes are no longer good enough quality for someone else to use as they are, poor quality clothes and textiles may still be recycled into new materials or used as rags, so take any unwanted materials to your nearest textiles bank. Yes – even those scruffy old T shirts or bobbled jumpers can have a use! Search for your local textiles recycling banks or service using the postcode locator at www.recyclenow.com.
Whatever option is taken, it is a win-win for all involved and it’s very easy to do.
If these suggestions are not enough of an incentive to reduce the weighty wardrobe then consider the environmental impacts of the clothes left hanging at home. When we think about products that are resource intensive, clothing is not one that immediately springs to mind. Yet the reality is the estimated annual footprints of a household’s new and existing clothing are equivalent to:
By extending the active life we get from our clothes by just nine months, we could reduce our water, carbon and waste impacts by between 20%-30%, so well worth doing. There are simple ways we could do that, including wearing our summer clothes in the winter. For example, try wearing a summer dress with tights boots and a cardy or wearing a jumper over a short sleeved shirt.
Two-thirds of us have bought or received pre-owned clothing in the last year, showing a real willingness to do so. So yes, there is a real appetite for pre-owned clothes - we should all make the best use of them starting from today!
For more information on the ‘Valuing our clothes’ report please visit www.wrap.org.uk/clothing.
If you added it up how much do you think the clothes in your wardrobe that you haven't worn for a year are worth?