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


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