Around £140m could be generated if all clothing sent to landfill was given to charities, local authorities or other organisations for recycling or re-use, according to fresh research.
WRAP’s study Valuing Our Clothes, examines the financial and environmental aspects of the full life cycle of clothing from raw material to disposal.
It said using the various collection banks or local authority services, donating unwanted clothing to friends, family or charities, or selling online, would provide new business opportunities as well as keeping clothing out of landfill.
According to the report, UK consumers have around £30bn worth of clothes which they have not worn for a year, and a third of all clothing ends up in landfill. It also finds that most people surveyed would be willing to buy recycled clothes.
The report suggests new business models to take advantage of this, including a bring-back scheme where retailers could buy back unwanted clothing.
WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin 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 £5bn.”
Waste minister Lord Taylor said: “Making better use of our resources is integral to economic growth, cutting carbon emissions and building a strong and sustainable green economy.
“This report shows that there is a huge potential for both businesses and households to save money and the environment by thinking differently about the way we produce, use and dispose of clothes.
“Used clothing has a massive commercial value, yet over 430,000 tonnes is thrown away in the UK every year.”
WRAP also said that the recently-launched Marks & Spencer & Oxfam Shwopping initiative provided clear evidence of retailer awareness and customer interest in new approaches.