An ‘eBay’ for fast-fashion may provide an answer to the growing mountain of unworn clothing that ends up in landfill or incineration.
Reuse marketplace Globechain has put itself forward as a means of addressing the vast amount of waste produced by the fashion industry.
Three out of five items of clothing sold in the UK end up in landfill or incineration within 12 months of purchase, and every year the UK landfills 300,000 tonnes of clothing.
Set up in 2014, Globechain matches unwanted stock, and even shop fixtures and fittings, with charities and small businesses to divert material from landfill and create some social good.
As London Fashion Week approaches, and a damming report into the industry’s poor performance from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is expected, Globechain said more retailers were signing up to its scheme.
Globechain founder May Al-Karooni said: “We have had an influx the past month of retailers jumping on-board. This is due to the agenda being more mainstream, a consumer movement and also the people who work at these companies actually do care.
“They see the waste and want to be more innovative. There are also major cost savings to being more sustainable, and this can be a good way to help keep jobs and create new skills and employment.
“Sign-off from higher up the company hierarchy allows management to be more pioneering. The industry is changing, and most retailers realise they need to change or they won’t survive.”
While the businesses donate clothing for free, Al-Karooni said that taking part can help a company show that it is contributing to the circular economy, which is becoming “core” to brand reputation. It can also significantly reduce disposal costs.
Disposal of clothing is said to cost the UK £82m a year, and Globechain estimated that a busy London fashion retailer could rack up costs in skip hire alone of around £60,000 a year.
While Globechain said it cannot prevent consumers from throwing away barely worn clothing, or increase the amount of clothing that is repurposed and reused by a brand, it can provide a more sustainable disposal route for unworn clothing and returns for retailers.
The EAC’s interim report, published at the end of last month, said the current fashion industry business model was “clearly unsustainable”, and it was “disappointed” that so few retailers were taking significant steps to improve their environmental sustainability.
It argued that “the current exploitative and environmentally damaging model for fashion must change” and that retailers have an “obligation” to engage with environmental issues.
The final report is due at the end of this month. The EAC said it wrote to 16 brands and had 15 responses – the only one not to respond was Kurt Geiger.
Burberry’s incineration of unsold stock was highlighted as poor practice when the committee discovered it had burned £28.6m of clothing in 2017. The EAC was told this example was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
The report also heard evidence of “worrying” labour practices. Areas of the industry are not in compliance with UK employment law and employees are not being paid the minimum wage.
Reports that workers, particularly in Leicester, were being paid £3.50 or £4 an hour were uncovered, and investigative journalist Sarah O’Connor told the committee: “I was told that £5 was a really top rate.”