Almost half of used clothes and textiles thrown in general rubbish

2nd May 2024


Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

This equates to 49% being discarded irresponsibly, with 711,000 tonnes of post-consumer textiles going to residual black bins and general and household waste recycling centres annually.

The country’s thirst for fast fashion is driving this trend, with the report revealing that consumers bought 1.42 million tonnes of textiles in 2022, while discarding 1.45 million tonnes in the same year.

“We’re all buying too many new items and then putting too many clothes in the waste-bin consigning them to landfill or incineration,” said Harriet Lamb, CEO at WRAP.

“These are valuable resources, not waste. We should be giving to charity shops who rely on the income, selling on e-commerce, repairing or sharing – anything but the bin.”

While UK consumers bought less new textiles between 2019 and 2020, consumption figures have now crept back up to near pre-Covid levels, meaning that the country consumes more clothes per head than any other in Europe.

The report claims that that the UK doesn’t have sufficient infrastructure to accommodate all the clothing and textiles that are being discarded, and that recycling and reuse organisations need urgent support to avoid sending textiles waste to landfill.

It also highlights the need for improved design to make clothes more durable.

Furthermore, the report also warns that a “perfect storm” is brewing for the reuse and recycling sectors as low-quality fast fashion saturates the market and drives down the value of second-hand textiles.

It reveals that the value of recovered textiles from textile banks and charities shops was £172.5 per tonne and £255 per tonne in 2023, respectively, compared with £406 and £432 per tonne a decade earlier.

“Fast fashion and low-quality clothing are flooding the market, strangling efforts to make our clothing more sustainable,” Lamb continued. “In the end, we are paying a heavy price for our addiction to cheap clothes.

“The UK is fortunate to have an existing infrastructure for textile collections that’s existed for generations. To risk losing their knowledge and expertise would be a tragedy. We need action now so that we don’t let this vitally important sector crumble.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close