British people strongly support measures to push the clothing and textile sector to change the way it operates to stop unused garments being destroyed, according to a new report.

In a YouGov poll of over 2,000 adults in Britain conducted for think tank Green Alliance, 85% of people said they thought it was wrong that unsold, returned or still wearable clothing was destroyed.

The research also found that 81% supported standards for lasting, high-quality clothing, 82% supported new targets to reduce clothing waste, and 77% supported new targets to increase reuse.

Globally, as much as 40% of clothing is destroyed before it even gets to a shop due to fast fashion’s changing whims. According to the Green Alliance report, the UK is the worst country in Europe for fast fashion, with British people buying twice as much clothing and other textiles as Germans. The YouGov poll revealed 60% of respondents admitted they owned clothes they did not regularly wear.

With the EU already agreeing to ban the destruction of unsold clothing and footwear, Green Alliance’s survey sought to find out actions British people would like to see from industry and government.

The Scottish Government is exploring new powers to ban the destruction of unsold “durable goods” through its new Circular Economy Bill while France has banned the destruction of unsold non-food goods including clothing. French legislators are now considering imposing charges on producers who make low-cost, fast fashion pieces.

The report, Changing fashion: what people want from a greener clothing industry, stressed that the fashion industry’s environmental problems could not be solved just by focusing on recycling but by tackling all of the 3Rs: reduce and reuse as well as recycle.

Green Alliance, an independent think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment, believes the UK government could be confident of public support if it took action to push the clothing and textile sector to change the way it operates.

As a first step, it has recommended banning the destruction of unsold goods but highlighted that experts said it was vital to back a ban on destroying unsold goods with longer-term policy to make businesses address the considerable environmental impacts of the overproduction and destruction of clothing.

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: “British people clearly think destroying wearable clothing is wrong – and that the government should step in to stop the reckless waste of resources.

“They also innately understand the 3Rs and want government to do more to encourage reduction and reuse before recycling. This can be done with existing legal powers. The government can and should make producers take more responsibility for what happens to their products, set standards for durability and improve the data that’s collected on what is happening in the industry.”

green-alliance.org.uk