Fast Fashion to Landfill

7 Sep 2020

@nadinebanks profile image

models standing around a landfill

Have you wondered what happens to all the clothing once we discard them?

Between the years 2000 and 2014, the overall clothing production doubled, with the average consumer buying 60 percent more items of clothing compared to 15 years ago. Yet, each clothing item is now kept half as long. We throw away 26 billion pounds of clothing each year. Post-war, due to scarce resources people repaired and reused clothing, but now since the clothing is cheap and mass-produced, there is no need to reuse.

50% sale sign

What changed?

So, why did we lose our love for repair and reuse? Why did the throw-away culture become the norm? And why are people throwing away vast amounts of clothing each year?

There is less incentive for people to make do and mend when the clothing is so freely and cheaply available. The culture has shifted from one where we value clothes to one where old clothes are thrown away and replaced with the new. It’s a vicious cycle that, if continued, could have a devastating impact on our society and planet. More impulse purchases are made and never worn, meaning that over 60% of households have unwanted clothing in their home.

In a recent survey by Oxfam, 49% of the UK's population admitted to throwing garments in the bins. Usually, they do this as they don't realize that worn-out or dirty clothes can be recycled or accepted by charities. While 16% said that they didn’t have time to take them to a charity shop and 6% weren’t even aware that it was possible to recycle clothes.

a woman deciding between clothes

As people spring-clean their wardrobes, an estimated 680 million items of clothing are thrown away each year, with a staggering 235 million of those garments ending up in the landfills. This means, on average, each person in the UK will let go of 19 items per year, with seven going straight in the bin. Men are more likely to send clothes to landfills, with 82% saying they would bin items this spring compared with 69% of women.

How do we slow down this trend of fast fashion and prevent mass amounts of good clothing going to the landfill? We simply buy less and extend the life of our clothes. Extending the active life of clothing by nine months can significantly reduce its environmental impact. The annual footprint of a household’s newly bought clothing (this includes cleaning and washing), is the equivalent to driving a car 6000 miles, filling 1000 bathtubs of water, and the weight of 100 pairs of jeans. We need to do everything we can to extend the life of our garments.

woman sewing

Top tips for extending the life of our clothing

1. Look after your clothes, read care labels, and make sure you wash your garments appropriately.

2. Repair your clothes. If you don’t have the ability or skills to repair an item, there are plenty of YouTube videos out there, attend a class, or take your clothing to an alterer. Sew on that missing button, mend that rip and learn to really care for each and every item.

3. Alter! There is nothing worse than liking an item in your wardrobe which doesn’t fit quite right. Leave it to the experts and get your clothing altered to fit you or altered to a style that suits you.

4. Wear the same item repeatedly, don’t be afraid to wear something more than once, heck more than 10 times, more than 30! Let’s make wearing the same outfit over and over again the norm.

5. Buy pre-owned clothing from eBay, TradeMe (NZ), Depop, Vestiaire Collective, or second-hand shops. There are also several clothes swaps around, where you can bring your pre-loved items and swap them with someone else’s.

6. Rent clothing for special occasions from HURR, ByRotation, Rent the Runway, Style Theory, and Designer Wardrobe (NZ).

7. Shop ethically from sustainable and smaller brands. You would need to research a bit since smaller brands may not have spent much on marketing, but in the end, you end up with a distinct wardrobe that works for you.

These are some of the hacks to increase the life of your clothing. Tell us in the comments if you know a place around that recycles clothes or if you have any tips that you'd like to share!

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@mariaubergine profile image
mariaubergine2 YEARS AGO
I love organising clothes swaps among my friends! 🌝🌝
@jaruiz04 profile image
jaruiz042 YEARS AGO
Good article. I agree with this.
@livelikevegansss profile image
livelikevegansss2 YEARS AGO
I totally agree! Let's make a change and joi FashionRevolution. Follow me on instagram if you wanna know more: @livelikevegansss
@zukie1229 profile image
zukie12292 YEARS AGO
I would like to collect them and give to the less-fortunate in South Africa. There people that are homeless and children at orphanage homes. Please don't throw them away, if you have clothes that you no longer use please contact me on or
@thepinkpigs profile image
thepinkpigs2 YEARS AGO
Buy overstock new clothing and Help Rescued Animals! Please take a look! All of our shoes are VEGAN. We buy overstock items from Macys and Bloomingdales and sell them at a discount and use the money to care for rescued animals at Rooterville Animal Sanctuary. Thanks for this great article!