Oxfam and Recycle Now have designs on less clothing waste

22nd June 2009

Pledge to help save millions of tonnes of waste from landfill this Recycle Week.

Billions of pounds worth of wearable clothes and other textiles could be saved from landfill each year if we all reused more and wasted less, according to Oxfam and the Recycle Now campaign, launching this year’s Recycle Week, which runs from 22-28 June.

A new poll1 conducted by Recycle Now reveals that only 39 per cent of us consider the environmental impact of throwing our clothes away and yet 63 per cent2 of our clothing is going to landfill where some of it will biodegrade in airless conditions to form methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

In fact, we buy approximately 2 million tonnes of new clothing and textiles every year3, estimated to be worth a whopping £38 billion, but recycle or reuse just 16 per cent2 of what we discard. 

Aside from the financial cost of this, the majority of people are unaware of the harmful impact on the environment. 

Existing research2&3 shows that:

  • Production of clothes is a major drain on natural resources – it uses up 10 times more energy than the production of steel or glass
  • On average, each UK resident purchases around £600 worth of clothes per year and discards £400 worth

As this year’s Recycle Week kicks off and encourages us all to think about the many, easy ways we can all waste less in our daily lives, David McCullough, Trading Director at Oxfam, is supporting Recycle Week and encouraging others to get involved.  As he said: “Recycling clothes is just as important as reusing or recycling any other material.  A huge amount of natural resources go into the production of clothing, so while it’s easy to get wrapped up in fast fashion, spare a thought for the environment, as well as your purse!  Why not make the most of your existing wardrobe and pledge to donate what you don’t want and recycle what you can’t use this Recycle Week.”

With two-thirds of us now committed recyclers, we’re fairly practised at recycling everyday items like paper, glass, aluminium cans and plastic bottles.  But we can always build on our existing habits, whether it’s doing more of the same or something new.  From reusing, donating or recycling unwanted clothes to reducing food waste, re-using carrier bags or home composting, there are many more ways we can help cut back on the amount of waste we send to landfill.

Celebrity stylist Fee Doran, AKA “Mrs Jones” who is also supporting the week, added: “I am passionate about recreating objects and clothing from the past - from old 70’s leather jacket to weird and wonderful knitted tea cosies, and have always shopped at Oxfam, other charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales.  I see the potential in re-using these things and can visualise the end result, which spurs me to take it apart and put it back together in a different way. I hope people get creative and recycle - this is the week to do it!  Why throw things away when, with a little imagination, you can make them even better!”

In the past year in England, we sent 112 thousand tonnes of household textiles to be recycled – almost double the amount we did give five years ago, so we are getting better at recycling4.  The current economic climate is also prompting us to think more about recycling and reusing our clothing; over half (53%1) of us now claim we are recycling and reusing more clothes than we were this time last year.

Laura Underwood from Recycle Now said: “Recycle Week is a great opportunity to remind us just how easy it is to waste less and reuse more of the things we buy. Not only does it help the environment, but it can also benefit our pockets.  Why not support us this Recycle Week by visiting http://www.recyclenow.com/ to find out what’s happening in your area and making your pledge to waste less this Recycle Week!”

This year has marked significant changes in the right direction with the launch of the Government’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. This was supported by 300 organisations from High Street retailers to designers and textile manufacturers helping to battle the environmental impacts of ‘throw away fashion’.


Recycle Now commissioned YouGov Plc to carry out an online survey.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th and 15th June 2009 and the total research sample size was 1,806 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England adults (aged 18+).

Defra, 2006, WS Project WRT152: Recycling of Low Grade Clothing waste.

ONS (2005) Consumer Trends – 2 million tonnes is per annum over the period 1996-2005 and represents a growth in expenditure of 34% with further demand increase predicted.

Based on household waste sent for recycling in England for the period 2003/04 to 2007/08, as recorded by Defra; this information is publicly available at http://www.wastedataflow.org/. 

For more information on the Sustainable Clothing Action plan go to:  www.defra.gov.uk/news/2009/090220a.htm


About WRAP

Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Working in seven key areas (Construction, Retail, Manufacturing, Organics, Business Growth, Behavioural Change, and Local Authority Support), WRAP’s work focuses on market development and support to drive forward recycling and materials resource efficiency within these sectors, as well as wider communications and awareness activities including the multi-media national Recycle Now campaign for England.

Recycle Now is a campaign to encourage people in England to recycle more things more often. Six out of ten of us now describe ourselves as committed recyclers, compared to less than half of us when the campaign began in 2004.

More information on all of WRAP's programmes can be found on www.wrap.org.uk and for more information on the Recycle Now campaign visit http://www.recyclenow.com/