Oxfam tackles fashion waste through redistribution scheme

Oxfam have joined forces with the UK's largest independent parcel delivery service CollectPlus to offer a convenient way for people to return unwanted clothing from the nation's wardrobes, after research showed that a total of 350 million items are unused in the UK.

CollectPlus conducted a survey polling more than 2,000 UK shoppers which found that £93 worth of unworn garments, many in mint condition, are buried away in wardrobes – totalling at £4.6bn across Britain.

In an attempt to salvage these unused clothes, Oxfam and CollectPlus have launched a new campaign which allows individuals to deposit parcels full of clothes at more than 5,900 UK collection points which are then sent to charities via Oxfam’s online depot.

In order to incentivise the #NeverBeenWorn campaign, Oxfam is offering a free service for the first 500 participants who download labels from CollectPlus’ website to be used for parcel delivery.

Oxfam Trading’s head of marketing Fee Gilfeather, said: “By having a clear out of your unworn clothing, you could be helping to provide clean water for a school, or vital supplies to a family in an emergency. We will sort your donations and sell them in our shops or on Oxfam’s Online Shop, so you can be sure that every last item donated is used to raise money to help fight poverty worldwide.”

Statistics collected by Atomik Research revealed that the UK’s most commonly unworn items of clothing included t-shirts, trousers and sweaters. In a nationwide study, it was found that Sheffield shoppers had the most high-value unworn items, amassing an average of £223.05 in unwanted garments, while adults in Norwich topped the nation’s hoarders, with an average of ten brand-new clothing items.

CollectPlus’ marketing director Catherine Woolfe said: “Many shoppers buy items online that don’t quite work when they try them on at home. As the partner to over 300 retail brands CollectPlus offers savvy shoppers an easy way to return unwanted items and see that cash come back into their accounts.”

Fashion revolution

The project is part of a growing trend of collaborative sustainability initiatives in the fashion industry.

Late last year, two fashion designers won a competition – organised by Zero Waste Scotland and the Salvation Army – to create new high-end clothing collections from garments that have been given to charity.

International fashion brand H&M recently pledged to ‘revolutionise’ clothing fibre recycling by taking ideas from the paper industry, after becoming a Global Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

In October 2015, WRAP launched a new initiative to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of the textiles industries across 11 European countries, with an aim to divert more than 90,000 tonnes of clothing away from landfill each year in Europe by 2019.

TV chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighted the need for a more sustainable fashion industry during his ‘War on Waste’ TV programme towards the end of last year, which revealed that it takes just 10 minutes for the country to throw away seven-tonnes of clothing. 

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