According to Oxfam buying one new white cotton shirt produces the same emissions as driving a car for 35 miles

According to Oxfam buying one new white cotton shirt produces the same emissions as driving a car for 35 miles

New research from charitable organisation Oxfam suggests new clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times.

The statistics are 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. The figures cover lifetime emissions including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal.

The research was commissioned as part of Oxfam's #SecondHandSeptember campaign, which encourages shoppers to buy second-hand fashion instead of new for a month.

According to the charity:

  • Each week 11m garments end up in UK landfills;
  • 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 GBP27 a month in fast fashion outlets and currently owns two items that remain unworn.

"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," says Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB.

"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."

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.

Sriskandarajah adds: "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."

At the end of last year, the UK Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) launched an in-depth probe into the state of the British fashion industry. 

It saw 16 fashion retailers – including M&S, Next, Primark, Debenhams and online apparel retailers including Missguided, Asos and Boohoo – quizzed by MPs on what they were doing to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the apparel they sell, amid concerns the so-called 'fast-fashion' business model encourages over-consumption and generates excessive waste.

The findings were presented to the government earlier this year. Recommendations included the introduction of laws that require brands and retailers to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains in a bid to tackle labour abuses; charging brands and retailers a penny per garment sold to raise GBP35m to fund an apparel recycling scheme; and tax reforms to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.