The citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) are set to dispose of 67 million items of clothing as it comes out of lockdown, according to a survey by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP),’s titled ‘Citizen Insights: Textiles and Covid-19’ revealed the data. The extensive research was undertaken with 2,422 UK adults aged 18+, from 22-24 May 2020.
WRAP also estimated that as many as 22 million pairs of shoes and 67 million clothing items will soon be disposed of via charity shops, collection banks and other donation routes.
One-third of the UK citizens had a lockdown clothing clear-out with on average 11 items of clothing no longer wanted. 50% of UK citizens avoid generating clothing waste. That has risen by 20% in just two years, the survey findings showed.
Peter Maddox, Director, WRAP said, “We have been working with organizations from across the sector to prepare for when they reopen and the expected high levels of donations coming in, over a relatively short time period. Everyone can play a role in supporting the charity and textile reuse and recycling sector. Our insights tell us that most people prefer to donate or recycle unwanted clothes, but with an unprecedented volume about to be unleashed it is important that we all take a few simple steps so as not to overwhelm the sector.”
“Whether you are using a charity shop, textile bank, retail take-back scheme, or kerbside collections the golden rule is to check they are operating before you go. Call ahead or look online – check with your local authority – but please never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or a full textiles bank. Our Love Your Clothes campaign has more details to help anyone, anywhere in the UK, by showing where you can recycle clothes where you live.”
WRAP found that on average people have discarded eleven items of clothes, with more than half of these items (59%) still at home awaiting disposal. Almost half of participants (49%) say they’ll donate these clothes through a charity shop, or charity bag collection service (17%).
WRAP’s survey also found that the proportion of people concerned by the environmental impacts of clothing, and actively committed to stopping clothing waste, has risen from 31% of the population in 2017 to 50% by 2020.
But, warns WRAP, as many as 14% of people will dispose of their unwanted clothes in the general rubbish; and of those who’ve already cleared out their closets more than one in three (36%) used the general rubbish.
As well as sharing with the charitable and recycling section, WRAP is also sharing its findings with signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 commitment (SCAP 2020) to help support messaging by retailers and brands encouraging people to donate textiles through in-store collections; which are an often-underused route for recycling clothing.
Global trendsetters increasingly demanding new ways to shop
Further to its UK survey, WRAP today also published a new global research report*, produced in association with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and with support from the Laudes Foundation. This shows that consumers around the world are increasingly demanding options to shop for clothes in ways that protect both the environment and people.
The report, Changing our Clothes: Why the clothing sector should adopt new business models (2019) surveyed citizens in India, the US, the UK and other European countries. It found overwhelming interest among fashion-focused consumers for new ‘disruptor initiatives’, which generate economic value by prolonging the life of clothes. They include options such as clothing rental schemes, re-sale and repair options.
WRAP believes the findings will support innovators and high-street operators to respond to consumers’ demands and develop new clothing business models built around sustainability and equity.
Citizens have disposed of textiles during the lockdown
Around two in five (41%) UK citizens have disposed of textiles during the COVID-19 lockdown – most common items of clothing (cited by 37%), followed by shoes/footwear (19%), bedding (12%), bags/handbags (10%), clothing accessories (10%) and household textiles (10%).
Being stored at home, ready to dispose
Over half of the items – 57% – remain at home pending disposal after the lockdown ends, whereas 43% have already been disposed of. Bags/handbags and clothing are more likely to still be at home pending disposal (60% and 59%, respectively).
Donate to charity. Among those with items still to dispose of, almost half (49%) intend to dispose of one or more in a charity shop, followed by a charity bag collection (17%) and the general rubbish (14%).
Wider outlook towards clothing
The research found a trend towards greater environmental awareness. We found that 50% of UK citizens actively avoid generating clothing waste. That is risen by 20% in just two years.
Two-thirds of people go out of their way to ensure their unwanted clothes go to good use. People were holding on the majority of the clothing they were getting rid of, to find somewhere for it to go once lockdown ends. The most favored route for getting rid of clothes is donating them to charity.
Following the research, we developed four simple messages to encourage citizens to recycle their clothing:
WRAP has some really simple advice for people who are not sure what to do with items they no longer want at this time, on the Love Your Clothes website.
The insights from the research have been shared with signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 Commitment to help support messaging by retailers and brands encouraging people to donate textiles through in-store collections, which are an often-underused route for recycling clothing.