Products of Change


Thu 19 Jan 2023 | by Rob Hutchins

Second-hand clothing has 70 times lower impact than producing new

The environmental impact of reusing textiles has been found to be 70 times lower than the production of new clothing, even when accounting for global exports for reuse and transport emissions. These are the latest conclusions to be drawn by the European Recycling Industries Confederation’s textile branch which completed a life-cycle assessment on the ‘significant carbon dioxide and water savings’ from reusing textiles. EuRIC found 3kg of CO2 is saved from each high/medium-quality piece of clothing reused and only 0.01% of the water used to produce new clothing is required for reuse. According to Mariska Boer, president of EuRIC, the study demonstrates the ‘environmental benefits of a global market for textile reuse and recycling’ with the potential to tackle the rising amounts of low-quality and non-reusable clothing. Mariska said: “Regrettably, around 62% of used cloting and textiles end up in household waste, meaning valuable textiles are likely to be incinerated or landfilled. “The European textile reuse and recycling industry envisages a circular textile value chain where every piece of clothing is reused in an optimal way and/or recycled.” reports that the findings confirm the environmental benefits of reuse over recycling, with the exception of low-quality clothing – typically polyester – for which recycling had environmental benefits as consumers were unlikely to purchase these items second hand. “This research demonstrates just how important it is to re-use clothes and extend the life of garments,” Alan Wheeler, chief executive of the Textile Recycling Association told MRW. “We know the global used clothing industry is the most sustainable part of the clothing supply chain by a considerable order of magnitude, producing major environmental benefits including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.” Wheeler also noted that the used clothing industry also provided employment and business opportunities for ‘tens of millions of people around the world, which was often overlooked by policy makers.’