£30bn of clothing going unworn by wasteful Brits

11 February 2014

British households have £30 billion worth of clothing hanging in their wardrobes that has gone unworn for at least a year.

Our wardrobes are worth around £4,000 at any one time and we spend around £1,700 on new garments every year.

Every 12 months, we're also binning £140 million's worth (or 350,000 tonnes - the equivalent weight of almost 30,000 London buses which, if lined up end-to-end, would stretch approximately from London to Paris) of skirts, dresses, trousers, jumpers, T-shirts and the like.

Such is the extent of the wastefulness, high street stores including John Lewis, Next, Marks & Spencer, Topshop and Tesco have pledged to bring about a 15% reduction in carbon, water and in waste going to landfill by 2020, while also cutting the waste arising per tonne of clothing by 3.5%.

The pledge is being run in conjunction with the Love Your Clothes campaign, which has been set up to help people learn how to extend the life of their clothes to save money and help the planet by keeping our sartorial choices out of landfill.
Liz Goodwin, chief executive of Wrap - the waste busting organisation behind both initiatives – said: "Clothes cost money. Not getting the most out of them by mixing and matching garments, repairing favoured items, selling them on, or giving to charity shops means we're not getting the most out of that hard earned money, and wasting scarce resources."

Here's some of Love Your Clothes' money-saving and waste-busting advice:

  • Choose clothing designed to last longer. A good tip people can try before they buy is to look at the seams. Are they sewn properly? Grip the fabric on both sides of the seam and pull gently. If the thread holding the seams together pulls apart slightly, it's less likely to last. And look out for over-stitching - as that means it's less likely to fray and need fixing in the future. Also, check to make sure the buttons are sewn on securely.
  • Buy pre-owned clothes. There are plenty of places to buy pre-owned clothes – online, at car boot sales, at fundraising events and from charity shops. You don't always have to buy - swapping parties or ‘swishing' events can be great fun.
  • Get laundry savvy. You can use less energy and keep your clothes looking good longer by doing a little research. Different fabrics behave in different ways when they're being washed, ironed or dried. For example, with cotton, while it's fine to iron to remove wrinkles, ironing over stains will end up ‘setting' the stains and could make them permanent. And if you put polyester in the tumble dryer, you could end up shrinking the garment.

For more ideas, check out the campaign's website at loveyourclothes.org.uk.

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