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New Report Reveals a Gap in the Clothing Reuse Loop

Image credit: Savers

Today, Savers® released its third annual State of Reuse Report, which reveals that while people consistently state they are donating or finding ways to extend the life of their items, there is still a long journey ahead to fully embrace reuse — as 60 percent of North Americans shop secondhand only once a year or less.

“Textile waste is a global issue, and we should all do our part to reduce our collective clothing footprint,” said Tony Shumpert, VP of Reuse and Recycling at Savers. “It’s promising to see more consumers thinking twice before they throw their reusable goods in the trash, but that’s only part of the equation. In order to bring the cycle of reuse full circle, we need to inspire consumers to incorporate reuse into their day-to-day lives and purchasing decisions.”

The state of consumption

North Americans are buying and throwing away more textiles than ever. Each year, the world consumes 80 billion new pieces of clothing, and 26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles go into landfills — 95 percent of which could be reused or recycled.

While keeping up with the trends as a consumer can be overwhelming, keeping up with closet space can be just as cumbersome: 46 percent of North Americans reported feeling like they had “way too much stuff” and 53 percent were driven to give items away because they had accumulated too much clutter.

Reuse as the solution

Although the State of Reuse Report shows that more people are finding ways to responsibly get rid of their used goods, rather than throw them away, that is only half of the problem. 60 percent of North Americans are still not shopping for reused items.

Why is this problematic? It takes 700 gallons of water for every t-shirt and 1,800 gallons of water for every pair of jeans to be produced. Each time consumers buy new, they’re exhausting the environment of those resources. Every time those items go to the landfill, so do the resources that went into creating them. The cost of our clothing is more than what’s on the price tag.

“Solving the global issue of clothing and textile waste is more than a matter of diverting items from landfills – the way clothing is produced is just as important,” Shumpert said. “New items must be produced with the intention that they will eventually be incorporated back into the reuse stream.”

Embracing the full circle of reuse

To change habits for the better, consumers must first better understand the impact of their actions. While a majority of people do say they recycle or donate their unwanted clothing and household goods, there is still progress to be made as nearly one in five still throw their reusable goods in the trash.

With nearly half (49 percent) of respondents reporting they were unaware that extending the life of a garment lowers its environmental footprint, informing the public of the power of reuse is key to changing this understanding and inspiring action. That’s why research and educational efforts are crucial to driving the revolution the clothing and textile industry needs.

Looking ahead to charter change

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When it comes down to it, the most sustainable items are the items that already exist. Drawing on other key findings from this year’s report, to inspire more reuse, shopping secondhand must be positioned as a solution that not only helps the environment, but also provides consumers with affordable, high-quality and one-of-a-kind goods.

What will it take to drive more consumers to consider purchasing pre-owned goods? Of those who shop secondhand, Savers® found that saving money is the primary reason for 57 percent to do so. Shoppers are also in it for the thrill, with 69 percent saying that buying pre-owned goods feels like finding hidden treasure and 77 percent have been surprised by the great pre-owned items they’ve found. There are many benefits to shopping secondhand — it’s just a matter of communicating them more broadly.

“What our data shows is that if people better understood how their actions hurt or helped the planet, they would be more likely to make environmentally conscious decisions,” Shumpert said. “This makes us hopeful as we continue on our journey to educate and inspire more reuse-ful world. Reuse is the solution — it’s just up to us to embrace it.”

Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]

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