The reuse and recycling of clothing is becoming an important way to improve the textile and apparel industry’s environmental footprint.
Savers, a global purpose-driven thrift retailer based in Bellevue, Wash., released a report Wednesday examining perceptions of clothing consumption and reuse and identifying educational opportunities to change wasteful habits.
With more clothing and textiles heading to the landfill than ever, Savers wanted to better understand what is driving those behaviors and what would motivate people to change their behaviors.
“As an organization committed to reuse, Savers felt compelled to identify barriers and clarify misconceptions around donating clothing and purchasing pre-owned goods,” said Ken Alterman, president and chief executive officer of Savers. “The insights garnered from the Savers ‘State of Reuse’ report point to the growing opportunity for the public and private sectors to work together to educate people about reducing clothing’s environmental footprint and drive the adoption of reuse.”
Savers commissioned the report after learning that the average U.S. citizen will throw away 81 pounds of clothing this year, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycling Textiles Association, 95 percent of which can be reused or recycled. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, reusing goods keeps them at their highest utility, reducing the need for additional resources to process new products.
Savers commissioned Edelman Intelligence to conduct a survey of a general population of consumers in the U.S. and Canada over age 18. A total of 3,097 people participated in an online survey from April 9 to 17.
Key findings show that people vastly underestimate the amount of clothing and textiles they throw away each year — and an average of 4.7 trash bags worth, while the actual amount disposed is nearly double, 8.1 trash bags worth.
There are also common misconceptions around what donation centers do and do not take — the report notes that 54 percent of respondents admit to throwing away their clothing and textiles because they don’t think any donation center would take them.
About one-third of respondent said they didn’t know that 90 percent of textiles and apparel can be reused or recycled.
There is a strong desire to learn about reuse and its positive economic and environmental impacts, with more than half of North Americans saying they are more likely to reuse after learning about the clothing industry’s environmental impact.
More than 90 percent of North Americans believe the concepts behind reuse should be taught in schools to increase sustainable habits in future generations, said the report.
“When people extend the useful life of their stuff by donating used items to nonprofits or buying used goods at secondhand stores, they are contributing to the circular economy and helping to reduce solid waste in landfills, pollution and the use of precious water and energy resources,” the report said. “This is an important goal and one that raises the question of how we can bring more people into this virtuous cycle.”