Left in the drawer, the 1.7bn items of clothing that we never wear (that's 28 for every man, woman and child in Britain)
07:01 GMT, 12 July 2012
Hanging on to those trousers you hope to fit into again, or that dress you bought in the sale and never wore You’re not alone.
Researchers have found that in the past year we left an astonishing 1.7billion items of clothing unworn – that’s an average of 28 items for every man, woman and child in Britain.
The total cost of these unworn clothes is 30billion, they say.
Out of fashion: Britons leave an astonishing 1.7billion items of clothing unworn – an average of 28 items for every man, woman and child. (File photograph)
A third of all unwanted clothes – 430,000 tons of them – end up in landfill when they could be sent to charity shops or given a new lease of life, according to Wrap, the waste reduction body.
In a report, Valuing Our Clothes, it says that unworn clothes make up 30 per cent of a typical wardrobe.
The most common reasons are not fitting into them any more, saving them for an occasion or not getting round to throwing them away.
Wrap’s report studied the behaviour of nearly 8,000 adults and found that the average household spends 1,700 a year on clothes, second only to food and drink expenditure.
It said the average item of clothing gives us two years and three months of useful wear.
But extending its life by nine months – for example, by doing the laundry at a lower temperature and not tumble drying so much – could save 5billion in resources.
Among the recommendations were that people try to put the washing machine at 30C and use the tumble drier less, which helps keep clothes in better condition and saves water.
Waste: A third of all unwanted clothes end up in landfill when they could be sent to charity shops or given a new lease of life, Wrap claims
Natural fibres such as cotton require more water and energy to make and create more waste than manmade fibres like polyester so are more environmentally friendly, they said.
The report also found our desire for throwaway fashion not as strong as expected – only one in five people cited fashion as the main reason for buying something – the most common reason being value for money.
Two thirds of us would wear something second hand if it was in good condition and the researchers say there is a great deal of scope for businesses to ‘hire out’ clothes or extend clothes recycling collections.
Schemes such as Marks & Spencer and Oxfam’s ‘Shwopping campaign’ were praised in the report.
Since they set up a clothes exchange in 2008, over 10 million items have been donated, worth around 8million for the charity.
They asked shoppers to bring in an item of unworn clothing of any brand and put it into one of their bins in stores for recycling.
Separate research from M&S found 1 in 5 people had binned an item after wearing it just once.
Liz Goodwin, Wrap’s chief executive said: ‘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 to 30 per cent and save 5bn.’
Looking good: Schemes such as Marks & Spencer and Oxfam's 'Shwopping campaign', supported by Joanna Lumley, were praised in the report