British public set to dispose of 67 million items of clothes as UK comes out of lockdown

Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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Published: 29 June 2020

This Article was Written by: Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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The latest public survey by Wrap suggests two in five UK citizens had a clothing clear-out during lockdown, and most are storing items to donate to charities.

Citizen Insights: Textiles and Covid-19 Survey was published to help the charitable sector, local authorities and recyclers prepare for the influx of textiles as charity shops and other donation routes begin to reopen over the coming weeks.

Supporting charities

Wrap, which found two-thirds of people are choosing to donate their clothes to help charities, has produced advice for people wishing to donate. It will be promoted through Wrap’s Love Your Clothes campaign.

The simple steps will help ensure that any unwanted items find a new home through donation, while helping people do the right thing without overwhelming staff at charity shops.

‘We have been working with organisations from across the sector to prepare for when they reopen and the expected high levels of donations coming in, over a relatively short time period. Everyone can play a role in supporting the charity and textile reuse and recycling sector. Our insights tell us that most people prefer to donate or recycle unwanted clothes, but with an unprecedented volume about to be unleashed it’s important that we all take a few simple steps so not to overwhelm the sector.’

PETER MADDOX
Wrap director

No bags outside

Data reported to Wrap suggest the equivalent of 184 million textile items have been cleared out, and the majority (57%) are still at home to be disposed as lockdown ends.

Clothes (37%) are the most common item sorted, with outerwear making up the bulk – particularly T-shirts, blouses, jumpers, hoodies and sweaters.

People have also spent time sorting through their unwanted shoes (19%), bedding (12%), bags and handbags (10%), accessories (10%) and household textiles (10%).

Wrap estimates that as many as 22 million pairs of shoes and 67 million clothing items could soon be sent to charity shops, collection banks and other donation routes.

Donate or recycle?

Wrap found that on average people have discarded 11 items of clothes, with more than half of these items (59%) still at home awaiting disposal.

Almost half of respondents (49%) say they’ll donate these clothes through a charity shop, or charity bag collection service (17%).

‘Whether you’re using a charity shop, textile bank, retail take-back scheme or kerbside collections the golden rule is to check they’re operating before you go. Call ahead or look online – check with your local authority – but please never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or a full textiles bank. Our Love Your Clothes campaign has more details to help anyone, anywhere in the UK, by showing where you can recycle clothes where you live.’

PETER MADDOX
Wrap director

Wrap’s survey also found that the proportion of people concerned by the environmental impacts of clothing, and actively committed to stopping clothing waste, has risen from 31% of the population in 2017 to 50% by 2020.

But as many as 14% of people will dispose of their unwanted clothes in the general rubbish; of those who’ve already cleared out their closets, more than one in three (36%) used the bin.

As well as sharing with the charitable and recycling section, Wrap is also sharing its findings with signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 Commitment.

The goal is to help support brand and retailer messaging encouraging people to donate textiles through in-store collections, which are an often-underused route for recycling clothing.

New ways to shop

Wrap has also published a new global research report, produced in association with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and with support from the Laudes Foundation.

It reveals consumers around the world are increasingly demanding options to shop for clothes in ways that protect both the environment and people.

The report, Changing our Clothes: Why the clothing sector should adopt new business models (2019), surveyed citizens in India, the US, the UK and other European countries.

It found overwhelming interest among fashion-focused consumers for new ‘disruptor initiatives’ that generate economic value by prolonging the life of clothes. They include options such as clothing rental schemes, re-sale and repair options.

Wrap believes the findings will support innovators and high-street operators to respond to consumers’ demands and develop new clothing business models built around sustainability and equity.

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