Charity shops can support a movement against people buying cheap throwaway items by selling top quality recycled clothes
Shoppers should shun fast fashion and purchase quality clothing from charity shops.
Politicians this week called for clothing brands and retailers to pay a tax on garments in a bid to boost textile recycling and reduce the pollution created by the popularity of throw-away items.
The environmental benefits of charity retail were discussed at The Gathering at an event hosted by the Charity Retail Association (CRA).
Attendees heard that the quality and variety of items in charity shops can result in greater recycling of clothes, and provide alternatives to the fast-fashion items available on the high street.
CRA chief executive Robin Osterley said his organisation supports plans for a tax on new garments, proposed this week by the UK government’s Environmental Audit Committee, and that charity shops have lots to offer for socially conscious shoppers.
“It really is a thriving sector,” he said. “I have been known to say that our time as a sector has come.
“There are a lot of social movements – in regards sustainability; people not wanting to feed shareholder profits; people don’t want to do things that are bad for the environment; and may want to avoid the whole fast fashion parade that we see and hear about.”
Highland Hospice retail manager Susan Cooper said that most of the items the charity handles end up being reused, or even upcycled.
“Most of our used items will eventually end up being recycled when they come to the end of their use,” she said. “We don’t do upcycling yet, but it is something we’re looking at. But a lot of people who do buy from us to upcycle items, whether this is small items of furniture or clothing.
“They are coming into shops and looking for items that they can do something different with.”
Samantha Moir is the programme manager for the Resolve project at Zero Waste Scotland, which highlights retailers across Scotland that sell high quality second hand goods.
She hopes that recent publicity over the negative environmental implications of throw away items can create major social change.
“Fast fashion can be the new Blue Planet as we see it,” she said.
“People are understanding what it means to buy new items, especially textiles. They are understanding more about the environmental impacts of buying cheap items.
“This is really important for us. We saw what happened with people stopping using plastic straws after Blue Planet and hopefully now the same thing can happen with textiles.”
Earlier this week, the Environmental Audit Committee said it is concerned about the use of child labour, prison labour, forced labour and bonded labour in the manufacture of clothes.
The MPs said people in the UK buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe - and a glut of second-hand clothing is swamping the market and depressing prices for used textiles.
The committee chair, Mary Creagh, said: "Fashion retailers should be forced to pay for the impact of their clothes when they're thrown away."