Did you know?

  • We now buy 400% more clothing than we did 20 years ago.
  • We wear these clothes on average, 7 times before we dispose of them.
  • 350 000 Tonnes (£40,000,000 in value) of used but still wearable clothes go into landfill.  Of every 30Kg, only 4.5Kg is recycled.
  • We send 700, 000 Tonnes to recycling centres.
  • 57% of people recycle.

(Source- Clothes Aid)

Elizabeth Cline as long ago as 2013, said in her book, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”, that there is a clothing deficit myth, which keeps people thinking they’re doing a good thing by donating their used clothing, when, in fact there are too many clothes in the world.

This isn’t an excuse to put your unwanted clothes in your green topped bin.  Rather, it’s better to recycle but be a bit careful about to whom you donate.After this last (we hope) Covid lockdown, the first thing many of us will do is shed our comfy jogging bottoms and cosy but worn-out jumpers ready to buy summer clothes for when we can all meet up again.  But could we think a bit more about how the clothes are made and what happens to them when we’ve grown tired of them?

Many of the cheap, “fast fashion” clothes bought on line from firms such as Boohoo are made here in the UK, in Leicester. Investigators from the Daily Mail, found that workers are often paid less than half the minimum wage, work very long hours and were required to come in to work through most of the Covid pandemic even if they felt unwell.

We might feel virtuous because we donated our unwanted clothes.  But look into what happens to the clothes, which can’t be sold second hand in the UK.  They may be bought by firms which sort and bale the clothes into categories.  The bales are sold to wholesalers in the developing world. The wholesalers sell bundles of the clothes to market traders. However, local people don’t want to buy clothes, which came from the cheap end of the clothing market here in the UK.  We got rid of them because, after a wash or two, they were out of shape. People in, say, Kenya, don’t want to wear them either and so they end up in their landfill. Often burned in large open fires.

One bright light shining in this sorry story is that women in the developing world are very pleased to receive bras donated by us.  At the last count, Stokes in Henfield High Street received and sent off to Oxfam Social Enterprise 300 bras, all in excellent condition.

Eco is the New Normal

There is much discussion about which fibres are most environment and carbon friendly.  Natural fibres present problems when they come to be processed from the plant or animal into fibres and synthetics are made from oil by-products. The easiest to recycle are synthetic fibres because they can be melted and spun into new thread again and again. This is less easy with natural fibres.  Garments made of mixed fibres are the most difficult to recycle.

There is really good news about what is being done about this huge problem and we, as consumers, can be part of this movement.

Please carry on reading our other insights into everyday household textiles in our other pages: the bad news and good news about the people who make and supply our clothing – and – the good and bad in fibre production and use.