If adopted, such ‘buy-back’ schemes would go one step further than the Shwopping initiative launched by Marks & Spencer in April, where shoppers can hand over an old item of clothing every time they buy a new one in-store.

The potential new business model is one of several mooted by WRAP in its latest Valuing our clothes report which says that £140m could be generated from textile recycling or reuse opportunities in the UK.

Under the retailer ‘buy back’ scheme, customers could sell retailer own-brand clothes they no longer want back to the retailer to prepare for re-sale.

Half of respondents to WRAP’s survey stated that they would be happy to sell back items, and over two-thirds said they would consider buying returned clothes.

Currently a third of all clothes purchased by British shoppers end up in landfill. According to the report, around £30bn worth of clothes lie dormant in wardrobes for over a year, equating to some 1.7bn items.

By making more use of these clothes through reuse and other routes such as design changes, alteration, repair and recycling, WRAP argues that there is a real opportunity for businesses and consumers to realise both financial and environmental gains.

Commenting on the findings, WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin said: “The way we make and use clothes consumes a huge amount of the earth’s precious resources, and accounts for a major chunk of family spending.

“But by increasing the active use of clothing by an extra nine months we could reduce the water, carbon and waste impacts by up to 20-30% each and save £5bn.

“Consumers can realise the value of clothing by updating existing items for their own use, or selling or donating them for others to use. There are also significant opportunities for industry to capitalise on consumer interest and gain financially.”

Maxine Perella

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