$45 Billion In The Closet? Only In Britain

What’s in your closet?

We British like keeping things in our closets (chiefly skeletons, if you believe our popular media). But we also use them to store unused clothes – an incredible $45 billion worth, according to a comprehensive study listed this week by the government waste watchdog Wrap. If it’s to be believed, of the $6,000 of clothes the average Brit owns, 30% are never worn, chiefly due to size changes, and instead of being productively moved along (either sold, recycled or donated) they linger, uselessly cluttering up our storage spaces.

Are we typical? Not compared to the United States. According to Tebea Kay at GOOD, Americans now keep just a fifth of the clothes they buy every year and throw out a whopping 68 pounds of clothing & textiles per person. It’s arguably the price of remaining fashionable, but what happens to the 80% of America’s clothes that head out its door? Valuable items get resold, damaged ones get turned into scrap material for recycling, and between them is the booming worldwide trade in used clothing.

So who do you go to when you move your clothes along? If you regularly take advantage of an inundation of charities leaving plastic sacks for you to fill and them to collect, beware. For the last decade Britons have been battled what has been termed the “great charity collection scam,” a set of bogus companies collecting donated clothes in order to sell them overseas for an entirely uncharitable profit. Nobody knows how much money has been ripped off the unsuspecting public in this way, but it’s sure to be in the millions.

The best advice is simple: make sure you clearly identify who you’re donating your clothes to. The best place for that? A high street charity shop or thrift store, where you’ll know exactly what happens next.

Image: M Car

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.