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The impact of clothing waste

Clothing has hit the headlines recently as one of the main areas of waste in a typical UK household. It has been estimated that clothing to the value of around £140 million is sent to landfill each year. Moreover, it is also estimated that the value of unused items hanging in wardrobes is around £30 million. 

As such there is a push for householders and local authorities to put more emphasis into reducing clothing waste by changing shopping habits, extending the life of clothes people own already and managing better disposal for clothing that has reached the end of its life. 

The charity WRAP has put together some estimates regarding the bigger picture concerning clothing waste which make for alarming reading. For example:

It is believed that the yearly footprint of a typical household’s new clothing purchases, including laundering is equivalent to – the carbon emissions of driving 6000 miles in an average car, the water required for 1000+ baths and in excess of the weight of 100 pairs of jeans. 

The charity believes that there are opportunities to reduce the impact of clothing on waste overall and their report ‘Valuing our clothes’ highlights some of these and includes:- Reducing the impact of new clothing sold – Extending the usefulness of existing clothing- Raising the demand and availability of pre-owned and re-usable clothing- Prevent clothing reaching landfill- Reducing the impact that washing and cleaning clothing has

Extending the lifetime of clothing is seen as a big way to reduce the impact on the environment. The average life of a typical garment is thought to be around 2.2 years but even just increasing that by 9 months could have a positive influence. Ways to extend clothing life include: – Ability to mend or alter clothing- Design of clothing and suitability to adapt to fashion changes- Consumer willingness to wear things again and again

All of this but in addition people should take great responsibility for how they dispose of clothing and get waste removed by the local authority or registered waste carriers only.

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