WRAP: Report highlights UK wardrobes contain 1.6 billion pieces of unworn clothing

Climate NGO WRAP has undertaken its ‘largest study’ of clothing habits, finding that the average UK adult has 118 items of clothing in their wardrobe, 26% of which (31 items) have not been worn for at least a year.

WRAP’s findings are presented in a two-part report, Clothing Longevity and Circular Business Models Receptivity in the UK, which examines UK attitudes towards clothing and willingness to adopt new forms of acquisition via “the booming market for circular business models”.

Although the textile and fashion industries are responsible for 4-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, WRAP suggests that changes over the past eight years in the way we store clothes and openness to new ways of buying clothes could reduce environmental impact. cost of clothes.

One of the key findings of the study is that between 2013 and 2021 the expected shelf life of a range of clothing in the UK has increased. This year, for example, unpadded coats and jackets were recorded as having the “longest lifespan” of six years – while underwear and bras have a lifespan of 2.7 and 2.6 years respectively, each adult generally has fifteen pairs of socks and/or tights, two of which are rarely worn. The report also shows that we each have an average of fifteen underwear, two of which are not used.

Compared to 2013, when they were kept for three years, jeans are now kept for an average of four years, says WRAP. Similarly, dresses are now kept for 4.6 years compared to 3.8 years and t-shirts (including polo shirts and jersey tops) for four years compared to 3.3 years previously. The NGO found that UK adults typically have 12 t-shirts each, three of which are sloppy.

WRAP identifies that items purchased as pre-owned or used vintage tend to be kept for almost a year and a half longer than items purchased new – where vintage and used clothing is kept for 5.4 years and new clothes for four years.

According to the NGO, if an object is repaired, it is likely to be kept for another 1.3 years.

However, although the reports’ findings indicate that clothes are being stored longer, a “considerable number” of these items are underutilized. WRAP proposes that this represents a “first opportunity” for companies to offer alternative clothing models such as rental subscriptions. This could still save sellers and buyers money.

WRAP outlines the top reasons UK adults own but don’t wear certain items, including:

  1. The item is for occasions only – especially dresses and frequently for skirts, shirts/blouses, formal trousers and coats/jackets.
  2. Item no longer fits well/comfortably, especially for jeans, dress pants, skirts, shorts, t-shirts/polos/jersey tops, bras and underwear.
  3. The item pleases but is not a priority, especially for sweaters, sweatshirts/hoodies, t-shirts/polos/jersey tops, jeans, coats/jackets and underwear.

Despite the number of clothes stored in UK homes, WRAP says this has not led to a change in shopping habits – with 45% of people buying clothes at least once a month and around one in eight people buying clothes every week. This represents a monthly average of £76.53 spent per month for the general population, rising to £133.06 for more frequent shoppers – who buy clothes at least once a month.

In total, the adult population of the UK spends around £4billion on top of clothing purchases each month.

A key motivating factor identified by the NGO is age, with 81% of 18-24 year olds buying clothes at least once a month. Today, 54% of British citizens say they are happy to buy second-hand and vintage, with women being more comfortable with second-hand than men; and those aged 65 and over the least affluent. Overall, 59% say they “put a lot of effort into looking after their clothes.”

Potential circular business models that could be adopted include clothing subscription services, rental (pay-as-you-go), second-hand clothing (resale), recycling and repair (where a brand repairs an item of clothing that a customer bought from him for a fee). WRAP found that 40% of adults are likely to use a subscription service, and 58% are open to using a repair service. Of those who have used a circular business model before, the majority said they would do so again – young people and frequent/spending buyers being the most likely to have already engaged and the most receptive.

In recent years, examples of circular business models have been adopted by high street brands such as: john lewis‘ partnership with children’s rental subscription service The Little Loop, john lewis women’s clothing rental service, M&S and Hirestreet, Asos market, ASDA’s Favorite Vintage and eBay and Reskinned pre-loved service.

Catherine David, WRAP Director Collaboration and Change, said: “The clothing and textiles sector has the fourth biggest environmental impact on the planet and that’s why WRAP works with the UK’s biggest retailers and brands. United to address it through the ambitious goals of Textiles 2030. Many people already buy and sell second-hand clothes, but our research shows the huge financial and environmental opportunity that doesn’t exist in all of our wardrobes.

“Textiles 2030 signatories are already beginning to introduce resale and rental business models, but these, alongside repair models, need to become mainstream if the fashion industry is to start achieving the emissions reductions of greenhouse gases needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees”.

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