The environmental audit committee found 235 million garments were sent to landfills in 2017
By Simran Kaur
In a consumer driven society, more people are taking to online shopping for the latest trends at bargain prices. Affordable websites, such as Boohoo, Missguided and Pretty Little Thing are selling dresses for as little as £5 and high street stores like Primark are selling clothing starting from just £2.
Fast fashion trends mean that people are wearing items of clothing a couple of times, then donating it to their nearest charity shop or, even throwing them away, to make space for new clothes in their wardrobe.
Cancer Research UK Leeds share stock
Karen Wilson, manager of Cancer Research UK in Leeds city centre, says that they do not have a problem with too many donations, or donations going to waste. “We don’t turn away any donations. Even if we can’t sell some items, we send them to a rag merchant and get money back from them or we recycle the garments,” say Wilson, “We don’t get a lot of donations as we are in the city centre as people come from a car park or travel on the bus and can only bring over one bag”
“We have a store in Kirkstall retail park so people can pull up outside the shop in cars. The Kirkstall shop averages around 500 bags of garments a week, whereas we average around 70 bags a week, so we share the stock around. None of our stock from the Leeds branches are ever gone to waste or sent to landfills.”
Environmental audit committee response
Labour MP Mary Creagh is chairwoman for the environmental audit “Charity shops can’t be the dumping ground for the high street’s dirty little secret – much of what they take back they can’t sell because of the quality and it’s very difficult to recycle the fibres,” Wilson told the Telegraph.
“They are turning it away as they can’t sell it so fabric either goes to Europe or the developing world.”
On Tuesday, Parliament’s Environmental audit committee were joined by major high street retailers and luxury brands such as Burberry, Primark, Topshop, Boohoo, ASOS and Marks and Spencer at the House of Commons. The retailers were asked what they were doing to make their clothing more sustainable and discussing the low wages they were paying manufacturers.
Missguided founder and CEO, Nitin Passi, who failed to attend the hearing, responded: “While we appreciate the importance of your work, and are committed to assisting as you develop recommendations, for the record, there were no specific allegations against Missguided in the transcripts of your previous hearings.
“Furthermore, in the as yet unpublished written evidence I provided on 9 November, we confirmed we are a private, family-owned, nine-year old business that represents approximately 0.26 per cent of the UK womenswear market(…)while we recognise we don’t have the kind of scale that would make an immediate difference alone, we have embarked on a programme of collaboration with others to address the issues you raise.”
A recycling charity, Textile Reuse and International Development (Traid), found that only a fraction of clothes that are donated to charity shops or sent to be recycled were acceptable for re-distribution.
TRAID’s main aim is to prevent unwanted clothes from being thrown out by turning them into funds and resources. They provide over 1,500 charity clothes collection banks within the UK, as well as home collections and and charity shops. These solutions prevent around 3000 tons of clothes from reaching landfills or being destroyed each year.