A new study by menswear brand LabFresh names Europe as the capital of fashion waste as it produces around 465,925 tons of textile waste each year which is equal to 7.7 kg for each of its 60 million people. Of this, just over 10 per cent is recycled while 81.8 per cent of its waste is incinerated or sent to landfill. Based on a metric of textiles wasted and how they’re disposed of combined with each country’s clothing spend and yearly export of second hand clothes, Italy, Portugal, Austria and the UK emerged as the worst offenders for unsustainable clothing habits.
Meanwhile, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and France came out as the most sustainable, throwing little away, buying less and giving pre-worn clothes away as hand-me-downs where possible. According to Eurostat figures used in LabFresh’s study, despite less waste in total, an average Belgian disposed of 14.8 kg of clothes in 2016.
In pure volumes, Finland topped by wasting 14,934kg of clothing. On the other hand, Spain wasted the least amount of clothes at 2.1kg per person. The study further noted that Austrians spent the most on clothes, with the average person in Austria spending around £1080 (€1264) per year.
The 15 countries in the study disposed of more than two million tonne of fabrics between them in 2016, with almost a quarter of the total was incinerated – a carbon intensive process. But more 57.1 per cent of all clothes thrown away ended up in landfill, taking up space for years to come and allowing greenhouse gases and chemicals to filter into surrounding air and soil.