It’s got to be daft that 350,000 tonnes of used clothing worth an estimated £140m goes to landfill in the UK every year. The figures - and other eyebrow-raising ones - come from WRAP in its Valuing Our Clothes report published on Wednesday (see page 5).
Subtitled ‘The true cost of how we design, use and dispose of clothing in the UK’, the report emphasises the special relationship we have with our wardrobes: desiring branded clothes; keeping around 30% of them unworn for at least a year; and failing to get unwanted items to the right place when they are finally cleared out.
Several key changes to behaviour suggested by the report depend on consumers getting the right messages and the industry responding. For example, why do so few people realise that ripped or frayed items have a residual value within our industry even
if no-one would want to wear them? Undoubtedly, a lot is down to social attitudes including reticence over ‘hand-me-downs’.
But where are the national campaigns trumpeting the value of clothing, particularly for reuse rather than recycling? This is part of the wider question of how we educate communities about avoiding sending their materials to landfill.
Perhaps it is partly because household waste is dealt with by councils and each has its own PR machine. The growing consolidation into waste partnerships might help better messaging.
More worrying in this context is the public wrangle about councils switching clothing banks from charities to commercial partners.
If consumers looking to ‘donate’ clothing get the wrong message through the media, it could even increase the landfill tonnage. Whatever the answers, we are all in this together (as the Government says).