Despite inspirational efforts being made across the top fashion brands, we are consuming more clothing, using it for nearly half as long and still filling up our Earth with unwanted and unused clothing and textiles. The existing solution we can utilize in our day-to-day lives and business practices is reuse.
It’s been three years since we started Rethink Reuse™ at Savers®. Since then, we’ve seen great progress by brands in the fashion industry. From Eileen Fisher’s Circular by Design commitments to adidas’ shoes and apparel made out of ocean plastic — brands are not only recognizing the negative impact clothing has on our planet but are also taking meaningful action to address the issue in front of us.
Yet, consumers can be a bigger part of the solution.
Despite the inspirational efforts being made across the top fashion brands, the waste problem has not improved. We are consuming more items, using them for nearly half as long and still filling up our Earth with unwanted and unused clothing and textiles.
Stella McCartney has reported that the average number of times a garment is worn before it gets thrown out has decreased by 36 percent over the last 15 years. And even more alarming is the fact that 60 percent of clothing is landfilled or incinerated within a year of being made, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
And while I’ve emphasized this in the past, I can’t help but drill it down: Each North American throws away approximately 81 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, totaling 26 billion pounds going into our landfills — 95 percent of which can be reused or recycled.
Reuse: The accessible solution for all.
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The existing solution we can utilize in our day-to-day lives and business practices is reuse. While we’ve seen more and more people turn toward shopping secondhand, habits have been slow to change. To truly make a long-term positive impact, reuse needs to become mainstream. Whether you are a consumer that no longer wants an item or a brand looking to extend the life of the items you produce, reuse ensures items are diverted from our landfills.
In fact, a notable brand that I admire in this space is The North Face. The company now sells refurbished product on its Renewed website, utilizing reuse to make a difference for the outdoors. This is the company’s effort to shift from a traditional, linear model of taking, making and disposing, to a circular model where people can “share, resell, repair and recycle clothing to keep them out of landfills.”
Bottom line? Whether you are a consumer or a company, instead of throwing things out (or incinerating them), I encourage you to give them a second chance at life by repurposing through the secondhand market. And in case you don’t think that this would make an actual impact … check out WRAP’s research that says extending the life of a garment by just nine months reduces its clothing footprint by 20 to 30 percent.
Go beyond just extending the life of YOUR items.
We can’t stop at giving our items up for reuse — we need to close the loop and complete the full circle. While we absolutely need to recognize that closing the full loop in the industry is going to be hard and will take a long time, the reuse movement allows you, the consumer, to make your individual life more circular — from the moment you purchase something to the moment you want to get rid of it. And as with many things, the more people purchase secondhand and recycle their unwanted goods, the more it will do to fuel the industry to go further and faster.
Asking people to consume less isn’t always realistic — and I get that. Shopping secondhand, instead of buying new, allows us all to shop when we want while engaging in a more circular model of consumption.
Progress starts with each of us — from the way we consume to the way we dispose. Let’s work together to change our behaviors for the better.