Almost 23 per cent of Londoner’s wardrobes are unworn, amounting to 123 million items of clothes stuck in wardrobes, according to a recent report by TRAID, a charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away. Traid’s new ‘23% Campaign’ aims to inspire, persuade and encourage Londoners to put these unworn clothes back into circulation.
The new campaign is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal Number 12 – to ensure sustainable consumption and production – in a simple and tangible way.
In the last 15 years, global clothing production has roughly doubled and during the past 10 years, the number of items of clothing purchased per consumer worldwide has increased more than twofold. It is projected that the global consumption of clothing and footwear will increase by 63 per cent by 2030, from 62 million tonnes today to 102 million in 2030.
Making more clothes in such an unprecedented short period of time, significantly increases the challenges linked to managing waste and pollution, and reducing carbon, as well as putting enormous pressure on the finite resources of our planet.
“Take for example one of our most vital natural resources, water. Clothes production consumes astonishing amounts of water especially in its dyeing and agricultural stages. In 2017 alone, the fashion industry consumed nearly 79 billion cubic meters of water – mostly from countries where local people are already living in a state of near-permanent water stress,” said Traid on its blog.
Moreover, the world’s most commonly used natural fibre, cotton, drives the clearing of forested land. It is predicted that by 2030, the fashion industry will use over 115 million hectares of land. Land that could be used to grow crops to feed an increasing population, as well as to preserve forests which play a key role in maintaining the ecological equilibrium of the planet.
The over-consumption of clothes in the UK plays its part in deepening many of these environmental challenges. In 2016, for example, it is estimated that 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing were purchased in the UK, a staggering increase of almost 200,000 tonnes from 2012. And for many retailers in the UK, cotton garments make up more than half of garments sold. But while people are buying more clothes than ever, paradoxically, they are wearing them for shorter periods of time.
In the EU, the UK is one of the countries with the lowest expected active life for clothing. “As a nation we wear our clothes an average of 3.3 years and the main reasons for not wearing our clothes is that they no longer fit or we simply don’t like them anymore. What a waste,” said Traid.
However, the UK is working towards improving the situation. In September 2015, the United Nations member states, including the UK, agreed to implement 17 Sustainable Development Goals to protect the planet, end poverty and ensure prosperity for everyone by 2030. This is a universal call to action and an invitation to everyone to take part, including governments, local authorities, businesses, organisations and people from all walks of life.
Traid’s 23% Campaign will help to put Londoners’ unworn clothes back into use. Action like this could save around 56 million cubic metres of water.