The nation's throwaway culture

Over 1 in 6 adults throw their unwanted clothes in the bin rather than seek more sustainable disposal alternatives, and nearly a third of people (31%) say that they would be more likely to replace a damaged item of clothing with a new one rather than try and fix it, according to new research commissioned by us.

Clothing has the fourth largest impact on the environment after housing, transport and food, but the OnePoll survey of 2,000 adults reveals little consumer awareness of the issue, with survey results shining a light on the throwaway attitude that many people have when it comes to their clothing.

The UK already disposes of a shocking 350,000 tonnes of clothing in landfill every year, with our poll results showing an average 16% of people saying that they dispose of their unwanted clothing by throwing it in the bin. People living in London and the South West are those most likely to throw clothes away (both 21%), with those in East Anglia least likely to do so (10%). Age is also a significant factor, with 25-34 year-olds most likely to throw their clothes in the bin (22%) and those aged 55+ least likely to do so (13%).

Over 40% of adults say that they buy new clothes at least once a month but a significant proportion of people appear to view their clothing as a disposable commodity, with nearly a quarter (22%) saying that they are put off fixing their clothes because it’s easier to buy a replacement, and one in five (17%) saying it’s cheap enough just to buy a replacement. In total, only 18% of people strongly disagree with the statement that they would be more likely to buy a new item of clothing to replace a damaged one.

The survey also highlights that a lack of basic sewing knowledge and/or confidence is contributing to clothes not being mended, with two-thirds (62%) of people saying that they are deterred from fixing small faults because they either don’t know how, or they’re scared of making a mistake. This number rises to 77% for 18-24-year-olds, compared to just 38% of those aged 55+. In total, nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents say that they don’t have the time to carry out repairs to their clothing.

To support people unsure about how to tackle their damaged clothing, we will be holding a series of “fashion fix” sessions at customers’ business premises during February and March, with a First Mile seamstress on hand to mend damaged clothes. Employees can also take part in First Mile sewing workshops where they can learn the basics, such as attaching buttons and fixing hems.

What can you do to change this?

Put a textile recycling bin in your office or shop so customers can see how easy it is to recycle unwanted clothing. You can find out more about the service here. We then pass these on to be recycled with LMB and ReWorks UK to be repurposed in the following way: Wearable and clean clothing is resold to countries in Africa and Eastern Europe. Scraps are turned into rags. Anything else is shredded for the automotive industry and turned into things like insulation and carpet underlay.

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