Have you ever gone to your wardrobe to get something to wear, only to despair and cry out 'I've got nothing to wear' even though you have a jammed packed wardrobe. You've probably got clothes in other spaces in your home also. However, despite this declaration, we go out and buy more clothes, shoes, accessories. We see a bargain in the sale, buy it, take it home and realise that the item we just bought, doesn't work with anything else. And so it goes on. We just can't help ourselves! We love to shop, it's become a form of entertainment, we can shop from home or physically go shopping. We shop for clothes for all sorts of reasons, it makes us happy, we need an outfit for an occasion or an interview or for a holiday. We just have to have the latest trend. Or we love an item and have to have it in every colour available. Does any of this sound familiar? Or are you one of the minority who has it all sorted? I have found some interesting and quite frankly shocking statistics about clothing and it's impact on the environment.


The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. It is also estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year.

These estimates suggest there is an opportunity for local authorities to divert clothing waste away from disposal by promoting better care for clothing and alternative management options. Local authorities also have a role to play in providing advice on extending the life of clothes through enhanced care, re-use and recycling.


The WRAP Valuing our clothes report presents estimates for the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing.

The annual footprint of a household’s newly bought clothing, along with the washing and cleaning of its clothes, is estimated to be equivalent to the:

  • carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles
  • water needed to fill over 1,000 bathtubs
  • weight of over 100 pairs of jeans

The 'Valuing our clothes' report also highlights opportunities across the clothing value chain to reduce the impacts associated with clothing supply, use and disposal. The report covers how to:

  • reduce the impacts of the clothing sold to consumers
  • extend the useful life of clothes
  • increase supply and demand for pre-owned, re-usable clothing
  • reduce laundry impacts
  • keep clothes out of landfill

Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability www.parliament.uk

Has made some suggestions of how to deal with the issues around the linear model of the fashion industry of 'make, use, dispose'. It has recognised that we in the UK buy more new clothes than any other European country and UK citizens dispose of around one million tonnes of textiles per year!

Charity shop donation rates are high, but around three hundred thousand tonnes of clothing still ends up in household bins every year with around 20% of this going to landfill and 80% incinerated. Clothing that enters the municipal waste stream generally becomes contaminated or damaged, losing its reuse or recycling value.

Increasing garment lifetimes is one of the most effective means of reducing their environmental footprint. Extending the life of clothing by an extra nine months could reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20–30% each. Academics at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion argue that carbon emissions and demand for water can be reduced through developing clothing maintenance skills, enhancing an appreciation of material qualities, and a ‘habit of mind’ that prefers existing items to new ones which then acts to slow cycles and volumes of consumption (Craft of Use).  Professor Dilys Williams says that the practical skills associated with repair, including of clothes, should be mandated as part of the national curriculum at Key Stage 1, 2 and 3. The Centre also recommends increasing opportunities for apprenticeships and training in technical and craft skills for textile and garment production.

There has to be a change of attitude and behaviour regarding the throw away culture that seems to be part of our way of life. For example instead of throwing away a very good coat and buying a new one, because the a button has come off why not just sew  on the button?


However, waste doesn't all come from retail. Think about all the fabric that was used to make an item of clothing in the designers studio and for each item how much of that fabric ended up on the floor. Times that by the amount of items on hangers in the high street that equates to an unmeasured amount of waste. Apparently in New York State there is legislation and it's an example of how to deal with pre-consumer waste. Businesses there are required by law to separate and recycle or re-purpose all textile waste including fabric scraps, clothing, belts, bags, and shoes if textiles make up more than 10% of their waste during any month. This has led to the creation of organisations like FABSCRAP and HELPSY which collects bags of excess fabrics and scrap fabrics directly from fashion studios on a weekly basis around New York. - Phoebe English Designer.

So how can we help to reduce the landfill?

What do you think we could do? I'm sure you have some great ideas. It's food for thought isn't it?