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UK Consumers Will Spend $3.4B on ‘Throwaway’ Clothing This Summer

Britons are expected to spend 2.7 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) on clothing they’ll wear only once this summer, a new poll claims.

Roughly 50 million new garments are purchased this time of year for seasonal events, like weddings, BBQs, music festivals and vacations, according to Censuswide, a London-based market group that surveyed 2,000 people on behalf of children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The biggest indulgence “by far,” Censuswide noted, is clothing for trips. British leisure seekers spend more than 700 million pounds ($880 million) on 11 million items purchased “purely for the holidays” then tossed aside.

More than half (51 percent) of respondents admitted they bought new clothes for a festival or holiday to add to the “excitement of the build-up.”

Weddings are another cause for splurging, with Britons shelling out 800 million pounds ($1 billion) on 9.9 million wedding outfits they’ll never wear again.

At present, a quarter (25 percent) of people would be embarrassed to wear an outfit to a special event such as a wedding more than once. For younger people aged 16 to 24, the number rises to 37 percent.

But buying new comes at a cost, both to purse and planet, Barnardo’s says. As such, it recommends that consumers turn to thrift stores to find “unique and beautiful” secondhand pieces instead.

“Choosing to buy pre-loved clothes for a special occasion from a Barnardo’s shop means you don’t have to worry about bumping into someone wearing the same outfit,” Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s, said in a statement. “It is also kinder to the environment and your wallet, getting more wear out of clothes which might otherwise only be worn once and end up in landfill.”

Nearly 300,000 tons of clothing ends up in U.K. landfills every year, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme, a circular-economy agency. In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported that landfilling clothing and textiles costs the U.K. economy an annual 82 million pounds ($103 million).

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There are a few signs, however, that attitudes may be slowly changing. More than half (55 percent) of those polled said they would like to get more use out of their clothing to reduce their impact on the environment, and 40 percent have worn a secondhand item to a wedding.

The survey follows on the heels of Oxfam’s “Second-hand September Campaign,” which launched at Glastonbury Festival this week to encourage people to give up buying any new clothing for an entire month. Musical celebrities such as Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow and The Cure’s Robert Smith donated items to Oxfam in a “stand against throwaway fashion.”

“We are so grateful to the artists and to Glastonbury for supporting Oxfam’s campaign against throwaway fashion,” said Fee Gilfeather, a sustainable fashion expert for the organization, which works to end social injustice worldwide. “By signing up, you can help protect the environment, and if you buy secondhand in Oxfam you’ll be helping the poorest people around the world escape poverty.”

A cross-political inquiry into the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion recently found that British consumers buy more new clothes annually than any other European country. Though it proposed a number of fixes—including a ban on destroying unsold stock and a one-penny tax per garment to fund a national clothing-recycling scheme—the U.K. government rejected every single one in June.