Textiles - Overview

The production, use and disposal of clothes has a significant environmental impact. After transport, utilities, construction, and food, the clothing industry represents the fifth-biggest environmental footprint of any UK business sector. 

Key points

  • The average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes.
  • Around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year.
  • The cost of this unused clothing in the wardrobe is estimated to be around £30 billion.
  • An estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.
  • Two-thirds of UK consumers buy or receive pre-owned (or second-hand) clothes, and there is a willingness to wear more, especially if a better range were available.
  • At HWRCs nearly 30% of non-clothing textiles were estimated to be re-usable.

The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) has identified numerous opportunities for business, consumers and local authorities to reduce the impact of clothing. Changes to the way the UK supplies, uses and disposes of clothing could reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing consumption by 10-20% by 2020 under the SCAP. Love Your Clothes has also been developed as part of the SCAP to raise awareness of the value of clothes and how their lifetime can be extended. Local Authorities can provide guidance and information to encourage repair and ensure more clothing and non-clothing textiles are collected for re-use and recycling.

Textiles

It is useful to break up textiles into non-clothing textiles and clothing as the latter represents a significant proportion of the household waste stream and distinct waste prevention initiatives have been developed to mitigate this.

However, opportunities exist to reduce the impact of both categories during the use and disposal phases. The Clothing and Non-clothing textiles sections provide more details about the two categories of textiles.