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Guest blog post by The First Mile: The future of recycling in fashion
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Guest blog post by The First Mile: The future of recycling in fashion

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Founded in 2004 by Bruce Bratley, First Mile makes it easy for UK businesses to recycle and improve corporate sustainability. Serving over 25,000 customers, First Mile recycles 35,000 tonnes every year, focussing on aiming to close the loop where possible. The company is at the forefront of the waste industry, investing in technologies and continually innovating to transform how businesses recycle, manage waste and reduce their impact on the environment.  

7.8 million UK adults wear jeans less than 10 times before replacing them.

350,000 tonnes of wearable clothes go to landfill each year in the UK

  • 350,000 tonnes are equal to 27,667 London buses
  • 27.6 million Brits still use the high street for their shopping needs over any other outlet
  • More than one million Brits regularly use charity shops as their main source of clothing
  • Further information can be found here, and graphics can be downloaded here

Despite the spike in interest in recent years around living more sustainably, figures suggest that an astonishingly, 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothes go to landfill each year in the UK alone.

To give context to the number of textiles being discarded into UK landfills, 350,000 tonnes is equal to 7.5 clones of the Titanic, 27,667 London buses or 1.8 billion iPhone XR mobile phones.

According to new research conducted on behalf of leading recycling company, First Mile, 7.8 million UK adults admitted they would wear jeans less than 10 times  before replacing them, with many opting to throw them away, rather than recycling or donating them.

In the run up to summer holiday season and the inevitable change in wardrobe fast approaching, First Mile wanted to find out the average cost per wear Brits are getting from their favourite clothing based on their average spend per item, and the average number of times they wear an item before replacing it.

The results showed that socks, underpants, sunglasses, cotton t-shirts, sun hats/caps and bags and rucksacks all boasted a low cost per wear, all coming in under thirty-five pence. At the opposite end of the spectrum, dresses, jeans, skirts and smart coats were well above the £1 per wear mark.


Certain items of apparel purchased solely for our summer holidays, such as flip flops, work out as quite an expensive item considering the cost per wear, with the average number of wears revealed to be just 6.2 at a cost of 64 pence per wear.

Certain items of apparel purchased solely for our summer holidays, such as flip flops, work out as quite an expensive item considering the cost per wear, with the average number of wears revealed to be just 6.2 at a cost of 64 pence per wear.

Although we live in a digital age, the study also found that 27.6 million Brits still use the high street for their shopping needs over any other outlet, followed by 12.4 million who shop for the bulk of their clothing online, and 5.6 million who opt to buy the majority of their clothing from supermarkets.

With British consumers reportedly spending around £366 billion in shops and online in 2017, according to the Office of National Statistics, it’s hardly surprising that many of us find ourselves guilty of hoarding several items of unworn clothing in their wardrobe.

While there is still a long way to go in terms of reducing our impact upon the planet and living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle, it is encouraging to hear that there are a number of people doing their bit, with the survey finding that more than a million Brits regularly use charity shops as their main source of clothing.

The research also revealed that women are ten times more likely to pick up a bargain in a charity shop than men are. Those hailing from Ireland are the group most likely to support small, independent businesses, with almost a fifth stating they would “shop small” for their main source of clothes shopping.

Naturally, there are several things we can do as consumers to stay responsible when it comes to our clothing, but of course, it’s not just the consumer who has a responsibility to do their bit, both brands and retailers can help too – and many are.

Schemes to promote the repair of clothing are becoming increasingly popular, as are “lifetime guarantees”, and incentives such as discounts or vouchers being offered to those who recycle their clothing in store, rather than throwing them away.

Bruce Bratley, founder and CEO of First Mile, commented on the findings: 

“It was interesting to find that the average British consumer is getting a fairly high number of wears on the items in their wardrobe, with 20 of the 23 examples used within our survey being worn over thirty times per item.

“While the most popular method of clothes shopping was revealed as the high street, it’s great to see the support for charity shops too. As well as rewarding donations, it’s wonderful that businesses are actively taking responsibility in helping their customers to recycle or to mend the clothing they have.

“At First Mile, we are eager to help promote this way of thinking and have recently launched an exciting collaboration in partnership with Hunter, offering a discount to their UK based customers who return their old wellingtons to selected instore locations or online.”