One in three Britons has thrown away six or more items of clothing over the past 12 months, according to a survey of 2,200 U.K. consumers by Marks & Spencer. Despite role models who champion quality merchandise that bears repeat wearing—the Duchess of Cambridge and Livia Firth among them—a fifth of respondents admitted to tossing out a garment after a single wear. At an average cost of £22.73 ($35.60) per discarded item, this means that more than £81 million ($127 million) of serviceable clothing winds up in landfills each year after it’s worn just once.
Conducted by Yougov, the M&S study reveals a nation of “one-wear wonders,” driven by cheap and readily available “fast fashion.” Seventy-percent percent of respondents said they’ve “binned” unwanted clothes in the past year, according to results, while one in five women said they owned more than 100 items of clothing.
“Shwopping” has amassed half a million unwanted items for Oxfam to resell, reuse, or recycle.
To leaven the blow, the British department store also announced the first results of “Shwopping,” a U.K.-wide clothing-recycling program that encourages shoppers to surrender an unwanted piece of clothing every time they buy a new one. Launched six weeks ago, the program has already amassed half a million used and unwanted items at a rate of eight a minute. Each garment has been donated to Oxfam for resale, reuse, or recycling.
While Shwopping aims to divert the one billion items that end up in landfills every 12 months, the campaign does little to address the source of that surplus: our inability to resist a bargain no matter how unnecessary or ill-made.
M&S’s ultimate goal is to collect 350 million items a year—as many clothes as it sells. If the survey is any indication, however, the problem is larger than a clothes-recycling scheme can handle. But it’s a start, we suppose.