Make, take and waste: How can fashion retailers tackle their old clothes pile-up?

H&M partners with London College of Fashion to launch Fashion Recycling Week

Unwanted clothing is gathering up in toxic waste sites, clogging waterways and smouldering in burn piles across the global south. What are fashion retailers doing about it?

Textile waste is an environmental catastrophe. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill, says the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, and Defra says each year over 1.4m tonnes of unwanted clothes make their way into municipal waste in England alone, making up 5.5% of un-recycled waste in the country. That figure doesn’t include items that have been donated to charity shops, placed in recycling banks or given to clothing take-back schemes – many of which are not recycled or resold, but exported abroad.

Subscription content

Please sign in now if you have a subscription or are already registered with us.

Retail Week

Register for free to continue reading provides premium, in-depth intelligence that helps retailers judge risks, spot opportunities and identify what they need to do to win in the digital economy.

Register today for a taste of our high-quality intelligence and enjoy:

  • Two free article views per calendar month on
  • Detailed analysis of current trends and events 
  • Exclusive newsletters
  • In-depth reports, videos, interviews and much more

Discover Retail Week register now

Please note, if you have recently purchased a subscription, it may take a few minutes before your account is updated.