Us Britons buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe, spending around £52.7bn a year on kitting out our wardrobes. The environmental cost of the throwaway, fast fashion culture that lies behind this spending, is something that we are all being encouraged to consider much more of when it comes to our buying habits going forward.
And the reason? The total carbon footprint of the clothing worn in the UK was 26.2m tonnes of CO2e in 2016, with our 'quantity over quality' buying habits thought to be a major driving force.
The problem with clothes produced cheaply and quickly is that shoppers tend to to view them as disposable, with 11 million items of clothing ending up in landfill every week (Oxfam). The actual production implications of all these clothes is another issue, with just one new shirt creating more emissions than driving a car for 35 miles. Oxfam say that by saying no to just one new pair of jeans and one t-shirt, you could save between 10,000 and 20,000 litres of water.
Last but by no means least, there is the issue of microplastics. ‘Fast fashion’ tends to be made of cheaper synthetic plastic materials, which are among the leading contributors to microplastic pollution. In the UK, two-thirds of clothing is made from these materials, with the biggest culprit being anything containing polyester, nylon or acrylic. Up to 2,900 tonnes of microplastics (or 17 million microfibres per load) pass through wastewater treatment into UK rivers and estuaries as a result of the washing of synthetic clothing, according to a recent Friends of the Earth report. Here, they can absorb nasty chemicals, and are then eaten by sea creatures like plankton who then pass them up the food chain. Some studies have even found them in seafood like mussels, beer and even table salt.
To help combat this pressure on our planet and its people, why not join Second Hand September and pledge to say no to new clothes for 30 days?
Saying yes to second hand stops great clothes from going to landfill – giving them a longer life. And when you shop at Oxfam, every item helps people beat poverty too.