New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times, according to new research published today by Oxfam.
The research was commissioned as part of Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember campaign, which is asking the nation to buy second-hand fashion instead of new for 30 days.
The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined. To keep prices low, throwaway fashion is made by garment workers often from the world’s poorest communities, and paid below the living wage. Each week 11 million garments end up in landfill in the UK.
Oxfam also found that:
• More than two tonnes of clothing are bought each minute in the UK
• Buying one new white cotton shirt produces the same emissions as driving a car for 35 miles
• The emissions from all the new clothes bought in the UK each month are greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times
• The average adult spends £27 a month in fast fashion outlets and currently owns two items which remain unworn
Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said: “We are in a climate emergency – we can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work.
“These staggering facts about fashion’s impact on the planet and the world’s poorest people should make us all think twice before buying something new to wear. As consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference.”
Poor countries have contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet are suffering the full force of its devastating consequences: from the extreme cyclones in Mozambique and record heatwaves in India to the exacerbated drought in East Africa.
A survey commissioned by Oxfam found that more than half of British adults are not aware that fast fashion is damaging to the environment. Almost one in 10 admitted they are ‘not bothered’ about the impact their shopping has on the environment but over a third said they are shocked and will change the way they purchase clothes.
Danny Sriskandarajah said: “Buying second-hand clothes helps to slow the ferocious fast fashion cycle, giving garments a second lease of life. With #SecondHandSeptember, we are sending a clear message to the clothing industry that we don’t want to buy clothes that harm our planet and the people in it.”
Lauren Bravo, 31, a writer from Leyton in London, who is taking the #SecondHandSeptember challenge, said: “When I learned about the impact fast fashion is having on the planet and the lives of garment workers, I was pretty horrified.
“I read about the sheer volumes of clothes going into landfill, about dyes polluting rivers and synthetic fabrics leaching micro plastics into the marine environment, and I decided that I needed to change my shopping habits.
“It was challenging at first, the treadmill of cheap trends can be hard to resist, especially when online shopping makes it so easy – but now shopping second hand has become second nature, and gradually I’ve let go of that urge to buy new things every week. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to the high street.”
Click here to view infographics
For more information or interviews with fashion expert Caryn Franklin, Lauren Bravo and Oxfam spokespeople contact Emma Fabian on 07825 503274 or Harriet Hernando on 07557 077008.
Notes to Editors:
• For social media use: #SecondHandSeptember @oxfamgb
• To find out more about Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember campaign and pledge to buy second-hand fashion for 30 days visit: www.oxfamapps.org.uk/secondhandseptember/
• The statistics produced by Oxfam are based on lifetime emissions for new clothing bought in the UK, including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal.
• The statistic quoted in the headline is based on estimates that 2.1 tonnes of new clothing are bought every minute in the UK, and that each tonnes produces 23.3 tonnes of carbon emissions. These emissions are equivalent to driving a car 162,000 miles, or 6.5 times around the world. Further details of the methodology can be found here.
• An Oxfam-commissioned survey from a sample of 1,000 British adults also found that a sixth of respondents own as many as five unworn ítems, but the average number of unworn items is two.
• Oxfam fashion fights poverty: Every garment sold in Oxfam’s shops on the high street and online helps beat poverty. One dress could raise enough money to provide a woman in Bangladesh with a safe bathing cubicle, a shirt could provide safe, clean water for 10 people in an emergency, and a coat could help train two farmers in Rwanda to better cope with extreme weather conditions. Last year, Oxfam shops raised almost £19 million for its work fighting poverty around the world – that’s life-changing. Oxfam’s pioneering recycling hub Wastesaver saves more than 12,000 tonnes of clothing from going into landfill every year.