Britons are set to dispense with 67m items of clothing after lockdown with two in five of us having used the time to carry out a wardrobe clear-out.
According to a study by WRAP, Citizen Insights: Textiles and COVID-19 Survey, many people intend to donate their unwanted items to charity shops (49%), use a charity bag collection service (17%) or they will use local authority recycling points, which are all braced for an influx.
Data reported to WRAP for the study suggested that the equivalent to 184 million textile items had been cleared out, and the majority (57%) are still at home to be disposed of as lockdown ends. The most common textile items the public sorted out during lockdown are clothes (37%) – particularly t-shirts, blouses, jumpers, hoodies and sweaters.
People have also spent time sorting through their unwanted shoes (19%), bedding (12%), bags and handbags (10%), accessories (10%) and household textiles (10%).
WRAP estimates that 67m items of clothing and 22m pairs of shoes are destined to be donated or recycled.
At the higher end of the market, the move could also see a boost for the resale and rental market, which was experiencing high growth before lockdown. At the height of lockdown in April, Vestiaire Collective, the global platform for pre-owned fashion, completed a €59 million round of financing, saying the COVID-19 crisis was accelerating the shift to circular fashion business models.
However people choose to dispose of their clothing, WRAP is urging, through its Love Your Clothes campaign, that it is done responsibly.
Peter Maddox, Director, WRAP said: “We have been working with organisations from across the sector to prepare for when they reopen and the expected high levels of donations coming in, over a relatively short time period. Everyone can play a role in supporting the charity and textile reuse and recycling sector. Our insights tell us that most people prefer to donate or recycle unwanted clothes, but with an unprecedented volume about to be unleashed it’s important that we all take a few simple steps so not to overwhelm the sector.
“Whether you’re using a charity shop, textile bank, retail take-back scheme or kerbside collections the golden rule is to check they’re operating before you go. Call ahead or look online – check with your local authority – but please never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or a full textiles bank. Our Love Your Clothes campaign has more details to help anyone, anywhere in the UK, by showing where you can recycle clothes where you live.”
WRAP’s survey also found that the proportion of people concerned by the environmental impacts of clothing, and actively committed to stopping clothing waste, has risen from 31% of the population in 2017, to 50% by 2020.
Despite this, as many as 14% of people will dispose of their unwanted clothes in the general rubbish; and of those who’ve already cleared out their closets more than one in three (36%) used the general rubbish.
As well as sharing with the charitable and recycling section, WRAP is also sharing its findings with signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 Commitment to help support messaging by retailers and brands encouraging people to donate textiles through in-store collections, which are an often-underused route for recycling clothing.