WRAP reveals the UK's £30 billion unused wardrobe
A new report by WRAP, the UK body for resource efficiency, has revealed that UK consumers have around £30 billion worth of clothes in their wardrobes that have not been worn for a year.
WRAP’s research, which was funded by the Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments, found in the last year alone that UK consumers left 1.7 billion items unused in their wardrobes. It also revealed a considerable interest from consumers in re-using those unwanted items.
'The ‘Valuing our Clothes' report looked at the financial and environmental aspects of the whole journey of all clothing; from raw material, to manufacture, purchase, use and disposal of clothes. WRAP said that by making more use of these clothes through re-use and other routes such as design changes, alteration, repair and recycling, there was a real opportunity for businesses and consumers to realise financial and environmental gains.
Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, explained: "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 £5 billion.
"Consumers can realise the value of clothing by updating existing items for their own use, or selling or donating them for others to use. There are also significant opportunities for industry to capitalise on consumer interest and gain financially."
WRAP highlighted the recently-launched M&S & Oxfam Shwopping initiative which it said provides clear evidence that there is both retailer awareness and customer interest in new approaches.
One such new business opportunity WRAP’s report identified was retailers establishing 'buy-back' schemes. This would enable customers to sell retailer own-brand clothes they no longer want back to the retailer to prepare for re-sale. With more than half of the people WRAP surveyed stating they would sell back items, and over two-thirds saying they would consider buying returned clothes, WRAP said this type of initiative could provide an additional income stream from a ready customer base.
Goodwin concluded: "This research clearly shows there are real financial and environmental benefits to be reaped from valuing our clothes more. By building on and encouraging the innovation already undertaken by collectors, re-processors, charities, retailers, brands, designers, suppliers and local authorities, we can help protect precious resources, and save billions in the process. WRAP will be working with industry to do exactly that."
Commenting on the report Adam Elman, head of Plan A delivery at Marks & Spencer said: "We are pleased that WRAP's 'Valuing Our Clothes' report has highlighted our Shwopping campaign as evidence that consumers are interested in caring about the impact of clothing on the environment. Seeing half a million items of clothing 'shwopped' in the first six weeks – that is eight items a minute - has shown that consumers are keen to take positive action when it comes to clothes recycling. But, there is still a long way to go.
"Recent research commissioned by M&S has shown that three in four Britons have thrown unwanted clothes into the bin in the last twelve months. Every item of clothing can have a future life, we are working with Oxfam to ensure everything is re-sold, recycled or re-used, helping both the environment and raising money for a fantastic charity. It is our aim that ideas like Shwopping help to create a ‘buy one, give one’ mentality and encourage greater sustainability on the high street."
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