A follow up survey to find out about textiles purchasing and disposal behaviours once the first nation-wide lockdown had eased over the summer and the impact on the textiles sector.

Key findings
 
  • Recognition of the environmental impact of clothing has increased
  • Sustainable behaviours are being adopted such as repairing clothes and shopping second hand

Responses to our second Citizen Insights: Textiles and COVID-19 Survey indicate that the UK lockdown sparked shifting outlooks and attitudes on clothing. UK consumers increasingly recognise the environmental impact of clothing. Over half (55%) now consider the impact of clothing on the environment is severe, a significant increase from 2017 when that proportion was 35%.

The research was undertaken with 2,091 UK adults aged 18+, from 02-04 October 2020. The profile of the survey sample reflects the known profile of the UK population (according to age, gender, region, work status and social economic status). The survey was undertaken within the context of local lockdowns before the re-introduction of new nation-wide restrictions which took effect on 5th November 2020.

 

Shifting clothing behaviours

UK consumers are increasingly acknowledging the environmental impact of clothing and, in parallel, the appetite to appear fashionable at the expense of comfort appears to have waned.

The findings from the survey indicate progress on some emergent behaviours that go hand in hand with improving sustainability (e.g. buying second hand/vintage, and repairing or altering clothes).

On disposal, the majority of UK consumers feel that they continue wearing clothes until they are worn out. They are willing to go out of their way to make sure that clothes that can still be worn are put to good use. When asked about specific disposal routes, UK consumers look for positive choices as opposed to using the general waste bin to dispose of their clothes and their responses show a preference for donating clothes to charity.

 

Challenges and opportunities ahead

The challenge, and opportunity, is to ensure that this latent environmental consciousness is mobilised and directed towards specific behaviours and sustainable business models.

Despite progress in some areas, the survey also shows that consumers in 2020 are no more likely to consider the environmental attributes of clothing at the point of purchase than they were in 2017. Getting the right fit to look and feel good, finding comfortable clothes, and getting clothes at the right price, are the main characteristics that people relate to when shopping.

The survey also highlights the difficulty experienced by many since June 2020 in disposing of clothing through their preferred routes. While restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be imposed, messaging promoting donating and/or reuse disposal routes needs to offer clear advice while at the same time, treading carefully to ensure that consumers are not asked to do something that is not possible at the current time in their area.

 

WRAP's foour step guide to recycling clothes

 

If you are unsure what to do with items that you no longer want at this time, please look on the Love Your Clothes website for advice.

The insights from the research have been shared with signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 Commitment to inform retailers and brands about their customers’ priorities since the first Covid-19 lockdown easing, including how their buying and disposal behaviours are changing.

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  • Citizen Insights: Clothing behaviours during lockdown part 2

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