some recycling facts to ponder over

Textile Recycling Facts*

  • Changes to the way the UK supplies, uses and disposes of clothing could reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing consumption by between 10-20%. This could cut some £3 billion per year from the cost of resources used in making and cleaning clothes.
  • The annual footprints of a household’s new and existing clothing are equivalent to the weight of over 100 pairs of jeans, the water needed to fill over 1,000 bathtubs and the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6000 miles.
  • The average UK household owns around £4000 worth of clothes – but around 30% of clothing in the average wardrobe has not been worn for at least a year, most commonly because it no longer fits.
  • An estimated £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.
  • By educating children on the importance of recycling with special emphasis on textiles, the concept of textile recycling will become part of everyday life for generations to come.

Extending the useful life of clothing

The most significant opportunity for savings is to increase the active life of clothing. Clothing accounts for around 5% of the UK’s total annual retail expenditure, with consumers spending £44 billion year on buying clothes – or around £1700 per household. If clothes stayed in active use for nine months longer, this could save £5 billion a year from the costs of resources used in clothing supply, laundry and disposal. Given that over 5% of the UK’s total annual carbon and water footprints result from clothing consumption, savings of this scale would be hugely significant not only in financial and commercial terms but also environmentally.

Why take action?

  • Fibre, fabric and garment supply contribute one-third of the waste, half of the carbon impact and over 90% of the water footprint of clothing used in the UK.
  • With finite resources such as oil and agricultural land and a growing global population, the global supply chain must get more value from the resources available to meet future demand.
  • Four in ten consumers think there is too little environmental information available on the clothes they buy.

Why are our wardrobes so full?

A focus groups survey revealed the following:

  • 57% of people said they hadn’t worn clothes because they no longer fit.
  • 46% cited wear & tear.
  • 44% said they had clothes in their wardrobe for ‘ formal occasions’ only.
  • 41% said they had kept clothes simply because they ‘ hadn’t got round to throwing them out’.

* WRAP report - "valuing our clothes"