Unused Clothing in UK Closets Worth $46.7 Billion, Report Finds

Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated £30 billion ($46.7 billion) worth of unworn clothes lingering in their closets, according to a new report by WRAP, the UK’s leading body on resource efficiency. Just sitting there, going to waste...

The report Valuing Our Clothes examines the financial and environmental components of the life of clothes; from a garment’s raw material, to manufacture, purchase, use and disposal.

Funded by the Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, the report found that in the last year alone, 1.7 billion items had gone unworn for over a year. It also discovered a healthy interest from consumers in re-using the unloved garments items, with over two thirds of consumers stating they’d be willing to buy and wear pre-owned clothing. Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, says:

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. There are also significant opportunities for industry to capitalize on consumer interest and gain financially.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The average UK household owns around £4,000 ($6,200) worth of clothes.
  • Around 30 percent of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year.
  • Extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10 percent reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints.
  • An estimated £140 million ($218 million) worth of used clothing (equal to a third of all purchased) goes to landfill in the UK every year.
  • On average, the global water footprint of a UK household’s clothing exceeds 200,000 litres a year - enough to fill over 1,000 bathtubs to capacity.

Consumers can realize the value of clothing by updating existing items for their own use, or selling or donating them for others to use. Goodwin concludes, "This research clearly shows there are real financial and environmental benefits to be reaped from valuing our clothes more."

Unused Clothing in UK Closets Worth $46.7 Billion, Report Finds
Extending the life of clothes by just 3 months could lead to a 5-10 percent reduction in carbon, water, and waste footprints.

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