£4.6bn of unworn clothing sits in British wardrobes

An estimated £4.6 billion worth of unused clothes sits in British wardrobes, according to an online poll by CollectPlus, which has partnered with Oxfam to offer 500 free deliveries to the charity.

Based on the results, CollectPlus calculated that the UK population owns over 350 million items of clothing that have never been worn, which, on average, works out as £93 of unworn clothing per person.

CollectPlus is offering 500 free deliveries for parcel donations to Oxfam’s online depot, in the hope that participants will donate their unworn clothing to the charity for better use.

The survey found that men amassed an average of £100 worth of unused clothing, £10 more than women. Residents of Sheffield were found to have the most high-value unworn items, at an average of £223.05, and those in Norwich had an average of 10 unused items.

The most commonly unworn items, according to the poll, were t-shirts and tops followed by trousers. The responses also suggested that online fashion shopping has ‘exploded in the last few years’.

According to the charity Hubbub, the average UK resident owns four times as many clothes as they did 30 years ago, and research by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) says that around one third of clothing has not been worn in the last year, estimated to be worth around £30 billion.

In an effort to tackle this throwaway fashion culture, Hubbub hosted a series of ‘re-fashion’ events in London as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the carbon footprint of clothes waste. WRAP, meanwhile, has developed the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) 2020, which will form the basis of a European counterpart, the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP), and several Zero Waste Scotland initiatives have recently aimed to address the problem of unused clothing.

Donating one tonne of clothing can save 11 tonnes of CO2

The textiles and clothing industry is the fifth largest contributor to the UK’s carbon footprint, according to figures from WRAP. The amount of clothes waste produced is equivalent to seven tonnes of clothes being thrown away every 10 minutes, and WRAP claims that by looking after clothes for an extra nine months, you can reduce each item’s carbon, waste and water footprint by 20-30 per cent. Additionally, WRAP says that providing one tonne of clothing for direct reuse (either by donating to charity or re-selling it) can result in a net equivalent saving of 11 tonnes of CO2.

Catherine Woolfe, Marketing Director at CollectPlus, said: “Many shoppers buy items online that don’t quite work when they try them on at home. Realising that many people have items that are too late to return, we’ve teamed up with Oxfam and will be offering free postage on the first 500 parcel donations to their main depot.”

Fee Gilfeather, Oxfam Trading’s Head of Marketing, added: “By having a clear out of your unworn clothing, you could be helping to provide clean water for a school, or vital supplies to a family in an emergency.

“We will sort your donations and sell them in our shops or on Oxfam’s Online Shop, so you can be sure that every last item donated is used to raise money to help fight poverty worldwide.”

More information can be found at the CollectPlus website.