Overconsumption of apparel and accessories is negating the fashion industry’s effort to become more sustainable, an analysis of 130 fashion brands and retailers by The Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) has revealed.
In the U.K. alone, consumers buy an average of 28 products annually — a fact that points to consumers’ addiction to buying more clothes and the lack of sustainable marketing practices in the fashion realm that contributes to overconsumption.
Over the past year, major fast fashion brands, including ASOS and Primark, have made efforts to reduce their environmental impact, including their signing of Textiles 2030, WRAP’s voluntary environmental pact. However, even as these companies have managed to reduce the carbon impact of textiles by 12% and use of water by 4% on a per ton basis between 2019 and 2022, the continued increase in their production volume is canceling out any positive gains, WRAP pointed out.
During the period, the volume of textiles produced and sold by the two companies increased by 13%, which resulted in an 8% increase in water usage and an overall carbon reduction of 2%.
According to Catherine David, Wrap’s director of behavior change and business programs, consumers, for their part, can start by engaging in mindful buying habits — something that can help break the vicious cycle of overconsumption.
“We’re working with companies to improve clothes, but the other part of the equation is our role as shoppers,” David said. “We buy more clothes than any other nation in Europe.
“Our research shows that a quarter of most wardrobes go unworn in a year, and nearly a quarter of us admit to wearing clothes only a few times,” she added. “Moving into winter is the perfect time to look through our wardrobes — wear what we have and consider whether it’s time to let something go. You can donate, sell, or give clothes away — it all helps them move around the economy and reduce the amount produced.”