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Consumer attitudes towards sustainability in fashion are changing, says GlobalData

The increasing number of clothing-swap and take-back schemes being implemented by retailers could signify that a change in consumer attitudes about sustainability in fashion is finally occurring, says a GlobalData analyst. 

The exponential rise in fast fashion in recent years has been fuelled by millennials’ desires for on-demand fashion at any time of the year, the growth in online shopping, influencer endorsements and sales through social media.

Recent research from charitable organisation Oxfam estimates that 2.1 tonnes of new clothing are bought every minute in the UK alone. The study also showed that each week 11 million garments end up in UK landfills.

The fashion industry is said to be the second greatest contributor to pollution globally, behind on the oil industry.

Michelle Russell, apparel correspondent at GlobalData, says this new appetite for disposable fashion has signalled a lack of understanding or interest by consumers about the effects this steady stream of clothing is having on the environment.

Yet in recent years brands like H&M and Zara have introduced in-store recycling initiatives allowing shoppers to drop off used clothing. This week, Adidas has also launched a new service allowing its UK customers to trade worn or unused gear for gift cards.

“It certainly feels like there is a growing appetite on the part of the consumer to act more responsibly when it comes to buying and disposing of fashion,” said Russell.

“The vast media coverage of the effects of climate change helped by the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have no doubt boosted this.”

Some critics have labelled the recycling initiatives a token gesture and questioned whether they can effect real change.

Russell concludes: “The job of the retailer now is to capitalise on the growing appetite for clothing recycling and educate consumers accordingly. However, collecting the clothing is only half the battle. Just as important is what happens once they are collected.”

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