UK clothing reuse charity TRAID is calling on fashion brands to tackle the issue of clothing waste as it publishes a study that reveals around 123m items of clothing remain unworn in London alone.

The study by the London-based charity found that 23% of people living in the capital city have clothing in their wardrobes that have never been worn, equivalent to 333,000 tonnes of CO2 – enough to power 50,000 homes for a whole year. It would take the entire population of London 15 years to drink the water footprint of London’s unworn clothes.

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TRAID is calling on the fashion industry and retailers to turn the goal of more sustainable consumption and production into a reality and stop the country’s huge waste problem. The charity says retailers can work with TRAID to engage customers, offer free home collection, provide free workshops to prolong the life of clothes.

“The way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge impact on the environment,” says Mary Creagh MP, chair of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee. “TRAID’s 23% campaign calls on Londoners to put 123 million items of unworn clothes back into use. Initiatives like this one help everyone to recycle their clothes – and to understand why that matters – as well as supporting the UN Sustainable Goal Number 12.”

On the third anniversary of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, TRAID is calling on the industry to champion Goal #12 – to ensure sustainable consumption and production.

“London is one of the world’s greatest fashion capitals and its wardrobes are full of unworn clothes,” adds Andrea Speranza, campaign manager at TRAID. “Cheap fast fashion is powering rising consumption and production, placing unsustainable demands on finite resources to produce clothes which are poorly made, barely worn and quickly replaced. From carbon emissions and use of water in the production of clothes, through to landfill and incineration when clothes are thrown away, the fashion industry can have a devastating environmental impact.

“Giving longer life to our clothes by passing them on avoids the purchase of new items reducing the carbon, water and waste footprints of our clothes.”

Enabled by the rise in ‘fast fashion’, the study found that 16% of Londoners buy new clothes at least monthly, rising to 24% among those aged 18-24. They are split in awareness of the benefits of keeping these clothes in use for longer: 46% feel uninformed about the environmental benefits and 43% are unaware of the social benefits.

A quarter (22%) of Londoners throw clothes in the bin after a clear out, rather than passing them on. This is most common among those in Camden (33%), Greenwich (31%) and Ealing (30%).

When informed how passing on unworn clothes helps sustainable consumption and production, 61% of people in London were positive about helping to meet this goal. Two fifths (41%) of Londoners said they would be more likely to have a clear out after reading about the environmental benefits of doing so.

“Progress of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is vital to the future health and sustainability of our planet, but 72% of Londoners have never even heard of them,” Speranza added. “Creating wider awareness and empowering people to take action is critical. The campaign to put London’s 23% of unworn clothes back into use is an opportunity to advance the goals, and ensure more sustainable consumption and production.”