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WRAP advocates reusing clothing for eco-gains
12
Jul '12
The ground breaking report ‘Valuing our clothes’ provides the first big picture look at the impacts of clothing. It offers a fresh look at the financial and environmental aspects of the whole journey of all clothing; from raw material, to manufacture, purchase, use and disposal of our clothes.

By making more use of these clothes through re-use and other routes such as design changes, alteration,  repair and recycling, there is a real opportunity for businesses and consumers to realise both financial and environmental gains, WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme)’s research, published, has found.

WRAP’s research, which was funded by the Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, found in the last year alone we left a staggering 1.7 billion items unused in our wardrobes. It also found that there is considerable interest from consumers in re-using those unwanted items. With over two thirds of consumers willing to buy and wear pre-owned clothing such as jeans and jumpers, the report identifies additional opportunities for this aspect of the clothing industry.

Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP, said: “The way we make and use clothes consumes a huge amount of the earth’s precious resources, and accounts for a major chunk of family spending.  But by increasing the active use of clothing by an extra nine months we could reduce the water, carbon and waste impacts by up to 20-30% each and save £5 billion.

“Consumers can realise the value of clothing by updating existing items for their own use, or selling or donating them for others to use. There are also significant opportunities for industry to capitalise on consumer interest and gain financially.”

Each stage of the clothing journey has a significant environmental impact. For example over 90% of the water footprint occurs during fibre and garment supply. Washing and drying clothes is the equivalent of around 10% of total carbon emissions from cars in the UK, and the majority of the waste arises once an item is no longer wanted. 

A third of all of the clothes we buy ends up in landfill, which is bad for the environment and bad value. There are significant opportunities to generate revenue of around £140 million2 if all items currently sent to landfill were given to charities, local authorities or other organisations for recycling or re-use. For example, through donating unwanted items to friends, family or charities, selling online, or using the various collection banks or local authority services where available.  These existing options or indeed new business opportunities could keep more clothing out of the bin and landfill, ensuring value is retained for longer.

The report goes a step further than simply providing the economic and environmental facts, it also identifies potential new business models for industry that can add to the bottom line, increase the range of services or stimulate markets.

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