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Waste Less, Live More: The slow-down on fast fashion

The UK’s fashion habit is growing and, while it does, the amount of clothing waste continues to mount too. As the seasons change, it’s a good time to talk about the impacts of clothing on the environment.

With cheap clothing readily available on the high streets, it’s easy to be tempted into constantly revamping your wardrobe, with one in three women feeling that their clothes are outdated after less than three wears1. An estimated £30 billion worth of clothes that have never been worn are hanging in wardrobes across the UK2, but what’s the true cost of these constant wardrobe changes?

The continual drive of ‘fast fashion’ adds to the waste problem, amounting to a staggering 10,000 items of clothing being sent to landfill every five minutes, equivalent to £140 million in value every year3.

But it’s not just the impact on landfill that’s an issue. It’s also the amount of raw materials used to produce the items that are going to waste too. To put it into perspective, it takes around 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans4.

But there is a way to ‘shop’ that we can feel good about; from customising or redesigning your existing clothing, to attending clothes-swapping parties or even raiding your nan’s wardrobe.

Try to remember it’s about quality not quantity, and you might even surprise yourself about how many items of clothing you actually need by creating a ‘capsule wardrobe’. With the average lifespan of clothing being just over three years, wearing something for an extra nine months can reduce its carbon footprint by 20-30%!5

If you are going buy clothing, ‘buy to last’ - buy an item to be treasured, to last a lifetime and be passed down generations. Buying less and buying quality means spending less time shopping and more time living, and you never know - that quality item could even be waiting right around the corner in your local charity shop, so you might not have to buy it new. Wearing second-hand clothes instantly extends the life of the clothing, reducing the carbon footprint and reducing waste being sent to landfill.

Use these tips next time you’re out shopping and you will be doing something that you can feel good about, wasting less and living more.


Written by our waste services team member Michaela - Education and Engagement Officer for the Recycle for Your Community programme.


Findings from Barndardo’s research: ‘Once worn, thrice shy – British women’s wardrobe habits exposed!’ (2015)
2 WRAP UK: Clothing waste prevention

3 North London Waste Association: Wise Up To Waste
4 Oldham County Water: Interesting water facts
WRAP UK: Extending the life of clothes

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