When we discuss fast fashion, we often talk a lot about the impact it’s having on the environment, but the facts can be pretty vague. We decided we needed some clarity on exactly how much waste fast fashion produces in the UK and around Europe; so, we took a look at the exact volume of clothing that is thrown away in different countries across the continent, to find out where we're (literally) wasting the most money and creating the largest pile of rubbish.
The top ten countries creating clothing waste each year
To figure out exactly how much waste is being produced, we took the weight of fabric thrown away by an average European per year, found to be 11kg, and multiplied this by the population of each European country. The volume of discarded clothing each year is staggeringly high. In fact, when we discovered the true volume of clothing being thrown away by different countries, we were even able to compare them to real-life landmarks across Europe! We took each country’s total yearly wasted clothing weight and compared the figures to the weights of local landmarks, to calculate how many times each nation’s
population can produce the equivalent weight in a year.
1. The United Kingdom – London Eye
With a population of 67 million and a total of 745 million kgs of fabric waste
each year, the United Kingdom is by far and away one of the most wasteful
nations in Europe – we discard the same amount of fabric as the weight of the
London Eye EVERY SINGLE DAY.
2. France – Eiffel Tower
In France, their population of 67 million produces a similar volume of waste at
744 million kgs, which can produce the same weight as the Eiffel Tower every
3. Italy – Leaning Tower of Pisa
59 million Italians produce up to 652 million kgs of fabric waste every year,
which is the equivalent weight to 44 copies of the Leaning Tower of Pisa every
4. Portugal - Dom Luis Bridge
Portugal’s population of 10 million produces approximately 112 million kgs of
fabric waste each year, which could create the Dom Luis Bridge every 10 days.
5. Germany – Fernsehturm Berlin
83 million Germans waste the equivalent of 913 million kgs of clothing every
year, which could recreate the Fernsehturm Berlin every 12 days. This means
they create the same weight of waste as 30 versions of this landmark every
Our expert’s opinion on clothing waste in Europe
We spoke with Priscilla Oshunremi - Head of Community & Social Media at Yayzy - about clothing waste in Europe and how we can all aim to be more sustainable with our buying choices.
“So many clothes go to the landfill because people don’t care about their afterlife.
Many countries are known to dump clothes from charity stores onto other more
deprived countries. The current issue we are facing with fast fashion lies in the term ‘fast’. It is too fast, and the model is linear; the term doesn’t take into consideration the afterlife of the product and doesn’t respect the concept of fashion and materials.
“It can take over 200 years for clothing materials to fully decompose, and this process is very harmful to the environment; they generate greenhouse gases, toxic fumes and chemicals that leak into our soil and water. Unfortunately greenwashing has become the in-thing, with many brands believing that doing a ‘sustainable’ collection is enough. Instead, we need to see more real work being done to challenge the system. I would say it’s not changed.
“From an environmental perspective, the world of fast fashion is going to destroy the planet if we let it continue its current form. If we act now, we can learn to enjoy
fashion for what it is - a mode of expression. This way, we can see better behaviours in our shopping decisions like renting, borrowing, and alternating being embedded in society. To help reduce the number of clothes going to landfills, whenever you feel tempted to buy clothing, remember to be selective - don’t buy clothing you don’t need. Look for timeless pieces, pass clothes on and focus on circularity when choosing items for your wardrobe.”
At Lucy & Yak our goal is to take responsibility for the end lifecycle of our garments. We do this via:
- Our Imperfects Hub: help us reduce waste and bag yourself some Yaks for half the price > Check out our Imperfects Hub here
- Our Re:Yak network: A directory of Artisans who can upcycle and repair your Yaks > Check out our Re:Yak network here
- L&Y Facebook Group: We facilitate a buy, sell, trade facebook group to allow our customers to trade Yaks with each other > Join our group here
You can also keep up with our environmental pledges and our Yaks care guide to help you take care of your clothing instead of throwing it in the landfill!