By Leah Berger
As the summer season begins to start in the UK, we all start to cultivate our summer wardrobes in anticipation. Whether it is purchasing new items that you’ve seen are on-trend or taking out an old bathing suit, we are all getting ready for some sunny days to come. But what does that mean for our old summer and winter wardrobes?
Often you go through your previous summer clothes, realise some of them don’t fit right. Or you just don’t like the style of your old summer clothes, something about your style may have changed. Either way, you’re probably going to think about throwing away items from your old summer and winter wardrobes.
But please, don’t throw away your clothes. Our ever-changing wardrobes and fast fashion in the UK are leading to a massive problem in many landfills. The UK based charity WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) estimated that £140 million worth of clothing goes into the landfill each year. This is enough clothing waste to fill 459 Olympic-sized swimming pools (WRAP, 2018).
Clearing out your wardrobe can often seem like a great cleansing thing to do, but it can also be very harmful. So we must be careful with where we dispose of our old clothing items. In the UK the average lifespan of an item of clothing is only 2.2 years and simply extending this lifespan by 9 months can significantly reduce its environmental impact (WRAP, 2018). But, clearing out your wardrobe doesn’t have to be a bad thing as there are other ways to dispose of your clothes. Here are some ways to clear your wardrobe without filling up the landfills.
In the UK there are donation bins outside of almost every church and community centre. You can donate your clothes to a local clothing bank or charity shop. WRAP estimates that more than 70% of all UK reused clothing is sent overseas where it becomes part of second-hand clothing markets in many parts of the world. I can safely say that as a person who grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa, I benefitted a lot from these clothes during my childhood. I remember going with my mum every weekend to “the bendover”, a second-hand clothing market in my town that sold British clothing bails. It benefitted a lot of people and helped Zimbabweans stay warm over winter. I even got my first coat there, which I wore when I first moved to London. So instead of chucking your old clothes in the bin, head to a clothing bank, and help both the environment and people who maybe don’t have access to clothing.
Second-hand clothing apps such as ‘vinted’ and ‘Depop’ have grown immensely popular throughout this lockdown. So why throw away your old clothes when you could sell them and make a bit of money as well. Place your old items on one of these apps and you might be surprised with how quickly they sell. This is a great way to make sure your item is getting another life and not ending up at the bottom of a landfill.
Be a Considerate Shopper
I know this might sound counterproductive since I have just told you we are producing too much clothing waste. But this is something that can help prevent clothing waste in the future. If you shop with quality in mind, you can extend the lifespan of your clothing for many more summers than you think. Quantity shopping has enabled the fast fashion industry to grow into a huge problem. We buy cheap clothes, that we only intend to wear for a short amount of time and that inevitably end up breaking, fading or stretching. This encourages you to throw away your clothes more often as they have no value to sell and maybe if they’re broken you won’t donate the item either. You can even turn to thrifting and shopping second hand for your next clothing items as this means that you are giving an item that would otherwise be in the landfill a second chance. Focus on buying high-quality staples that will last you a long time and you can help prevent a lot of clothing waste from filling up our landfills.
Hold On to Your Clothes
Go through your wardrobe and find your basic staples, those items that you wear daily or weekly, the ones that seem to complete every outfit. Then keep those items and give them a long life. Wear them through many seasons, I promise your personal style never goes out of fashion. While you’re going through your wardrobe, bring some of your clothes back to life. It is almost like sometimes we can re-shop in our wardrobe. We all have those items that you discover at the back of your cupboard that you forgot you even owned. Sometimes they just hide back there and never get worn or used and by the time you find them, it is like having an almost new piece of clothing.
You can also upcycle your clothes. If an item feels boring or needs a change, you could do that yourself. If you’re not talented in the sewing department you could ask a family member or even visit a tailor. Soon you’ll have a brand new piece from an item that you considered getting rid of. So go through your wardrobe and put those items at the back in the front and use them.
By simply being considerate with your clothing you can save a lot of it from filling up the landfill. One clothing item can have so many ways it can be reused, donated, upcycled or recycled.