Fashion Waste Index

In recent decades, fashion and other textiles have been increasingly reduced to disposable items. What is considered a trend today will disappear in the depths of a wardrobe tomorrow. With low prices and ever-changing collections, fashion brands and the clothing industry as a whole are tempting shoppers to over-consume mass-produced items made from low quality textiles. The extent of this consumption often becomes apparent only when entire wardrobes are cleared out from old or unused clothing. While clothes that have become out of fashion end up in collections of old clothing to be repurposed at best, many pieces are often disposed of, despite being in perfect condition. Textile waste has therefore become a big problem in recent years. 

1

Italy
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 465,925
Per person(kg): 7.7

2

Portugal
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 81,715
Per person(kg): 8

3

Austria
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 62,446
Per person(kg): 7

4

United Kingdom
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 206,456
Per person(kg): 3.1

5

Belgium
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 169,949
Per person(kg): 14.8

6

Czech Republic
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes):108,273
Per person(kg): 10.2

7

Denmark
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 18,134
Per person(kg): 3.1

8

Spain
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 98,881
Per person(kg): 2.1

9

Finland
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes):14,934
Per person(kg): 2.7

10

Germany
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 391,752
Per person(kg): 4.7

11

Netherlands
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes):102,261
Per person(kg): 5.9

12

France
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 210,001
Per person(kg): 3.1

13

Ireland
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 22,944
Per person(kg): 4.7

14

Poland
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes):103,683
Per person(kg): 2.7

15

Hungary
Textile waste/year
Total (tonnes): 23,190
Per person(kg): 2.4

With a diverse collection of innovative textiles that require less washing and can therefore be worn longer, we at LABFRESH want to encourage people to change their behavioral patterns one step at a time. To make the urgent need to reduce textile waste clear, we have analysed the 15 European nations that produce the largest amounts of textile waste each year. In addition to the total amount of fashion waste produced yearly, the level of private expenditure on new clothing, the market share of the industry in each country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the amount of exported clothing contribute to the calculation of the ranking of the largest textile polluting countries.

When considered together, the analysed countries produce more than two million tons of textile waste annually, which is then recycled or disposed of permanently. In order to make the magnitude of the waste clearly comprehensible, we have calculated a per capita share of the annual textile waste and of the respective disposal methods for each country. While 10% of all textile waste stays on the market as second hand clothing, a further 8% can be added back to the production cycle through recycling, as revealed in a report of the European Commission's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS). However, the remaining quantity is permanently disposed of. Almost a quarter (24,3%) of all textile waste is incinerated in a CO²-intensive process, and more than half (57,1%) of fashion waste ends up in landfills, which are especially harmful to the environment. These figures highlight how that the less textile waste is produced, the better it is for people and the environment.

 Country
 Yearly Total Textile waste (Tonnes)
 Yearly textile waste per person (Kg)
 Yearly recycled textile waste per person (Kg)

 Yearly reusable textile waste per person (Kg)
 Yearly incinerated textile waste per person (Kg)
 Yearly landfilled textile waste per person (Kg)
 Spending Per person, pound per capita (2018)

 Percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)
 Yearly export of worn clothing per person (Kg)
Final Score (100-0, 100 being the worst)

  Italy 465,925 7.7 0.8 0.6 1.9 4.4 £920 3.7% 2.6 100.0
  Portugal 81,715 8.0 0.8 0.6 2.0 4.6 £680 4.1% 2.1 96.9
  Austria 62,446 7.0 0.7 0.6 1.7 4.0 £1,080 2.9% 4.6 84.9
  UK 206,456 3.1 0.3 0.2 0.8 1.7 £980 3.2% 5.9 59.1
  Belgium 169,949 14.8 1.5 1.2 3.7 8.4 £810 2.3% 16.7 51.7
  Czech Rep. 108,273 10.2 1.0 0.8 2.5 5.8 £300 1.8% 3.4 49.7
  Denmark 18,134 3.1 0.3 0.3 0.8 1.8 £840 1.9% 2.6 47.0
  Spain 98,881 2.1 0.2 0.2 0.5 1.2 £580 2.7% 1.3 45.7
  Finland 14,934 2.7 0.3 0.2 0.7 1.5 £750 2.1% 2.3 44.4
  Germany 391,752 4.7 0.5 0.4 1.2 2.7 £780 2.3% 6.0 43.5
  Netherlands 102,261 5.9 0.6 0.5 1.5 3.4 £870 2.3% 9.0 41.6
  France 210,001 3.1 0.3 0.3 0.8 1.8 £570 1.9% 1.2 39.0
  Ireland 22,944 4.7 0.5 0.4 1.2 2.7 £650 1.1% 2.4 34.1
  Poland 103,683 2.7 0.3 0.2 0.7 1.6 £340 3.1% 4.8 28.3
  Hungary 23,190 2.4 0.2 0.2 0.6 1.4 £210 1.8% 5.0 0.0

 

The ranking, from worst to best

 

Sum clusters Final
score
Italy 235.0 100.0
Portugal 230.2 96.9
Austria 211.2 84.9
United Kingdom 170.5 59.1
Belgium 158.9 51.7
Czech Republic 155.7 49.7
Denmark 151.5 47.0
Spain 149.4 45.7
Finland 147.3 44.4
Germany 146.0 43.5
Netherlands 143.0 41.6
France 138.8 39.0
Ireland 131.2 34.1
Poland 122.0 28.3
Hungary 77.5 0.0

The textile waste cluster

What does this mean?

The textile waste cluster describes what happens to fashion waste and how much each country produces. 

Yearly textile waste (Tonnes)

The total amount of textile waste produced per country in tonnes was sourced from Eurostat 2016, Generation of waste by waste category by searching for textile waste in the non hazardous waste data.

Yearly textile waste per person (Kg)

The total textile waste per country divided by its respective population, after converting the yearly textile waste from Tonnes to Kilograms. The information on each country’s population was sourced from 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects

Yearly recycled textile waste per person (Kg) 

The textile waste that is broken down to obtain fabrics that will be used to manufacture new products, as defined by Eurostat. This number was obtained by multiplying the yearly textile waste per person in Kilograms by the average yearly European percentage of textile waste that is recycled (10%), which was sourced from page 58 of The Environmental Improvement Potential of Textiles Report of the European Commission (January 2014),

Yearly reusable textile waste per person (Kg) 

The textile waste to be reused as second-hand clothing with little to no modification, as defined by Eurostat. It differs from recycling, which is the breakdown of textiles to be used to manufacture a new textile item, as the textile waste in this category is intended to be sold as second-hand clothing as is. This number was obtained by multiplying the yearly textile waste per person in Kilograms by the average yearly European percentage of textile waste that is reused (8%), which was found on page 58 of The Environmental Improvement Potential of Textiles Report of the European Commission (January 2014).

Yearly incinerated textile waste per person (Kg)

The amount of textile waste per person that is incinerated in a year.

Incineration is defined by Eurostat as a method for waste disposal that involves the combustion (burning) of waste. It is a controlled process in which the energy given off from combustion can be reused by being converted into electricity.

This number was calculated by multiplying the yearly textile waste per person  in Kilograms by the average yearly European percentage of textile waste that is incinerated (24.3%), found on page 58 of The Environmental Improvement Potential of Textiles Report of the European Commission (January 2014)

Yearly landfilled textile waste per person (Kg) 

The amount of textile waste per person that ends up in a landfill.

According to Eurostat, a landfill is the disposal of waste into or onto a designated area of land. This is the least desirable way to dispose of waste because it is the most damaging to the environment. However, landfills represent the most common textile waste disposal technique.

This value was calculated by multiplying the yearly textile waste per person in Kilograms by the average European percentage of landfilled textile waste (57.1%). This information was sourced from page 58 of The Environmental Improvement Potential of Textiles Report of the European Commission (January 2014)

Results
Country Population Yearly Total Textile waste (Tonnes) Yearly textile waste
per person (Kg)
Yearly recycled textile waste per person (Kg) Yearly reusable textile waste per person (Kg) Yearly incinerated textile waste per person (Kg) Yearly landfilled textile waste per person (Kg) Cluster Score 0-100
Italy 60,359,546 465,925 7.7 0.8 0.6 1.9 4.4 44.1
Portugal 10,276,617 81,715 8.0 0.8 0.6 2.0 4.6 46.0
Austria 8,858,775 62,446 7.0 0.7 0.6 1.7 4.0 38.9
United Kingdom 66,647,112 206,456 3.1 0.3 0.2 0.8 1.7 7.8
Belgium 11,467,923 169,949 14.8 1.5 1.2 3.7 8.4 100.0
Czech Republic 10,649,800 108,273 10.2 1.0 0.8 2.5 5.8 63.4
Denmark 5,806,081 18,134 3.1 0.3 0.3 0.8 1.8 8.0
Spain 46,934,632 98,881 2.1 0.2 0.2 0.5 1.2 0.0
Finland 5,517,919 14,934 2.7 0.3 0.2 0.7 1.5 4.7
Germany 83,019,213 391,752 4.7 0.5 0.4 1.2 2.7 20.5
Netherlands 17,282,163 102,261 5.9 0.6 0.5 1.5 3.4 30.0
France 67,028,048 210,001 3.1 0.3 0.3 0.8 1.8 8.1
Ireland 4,904,226 22,944 4.7 0.5 0.4 1.2 2.7 20.2
Poland 37,972,812 103,683 2.7 0.3 0.2 0.7 1.6 4.9
Hungary 9,772,756 23,190 2.4 0.2 0.2 0.6 1.4 2.1

The clothing industry cluster

What does this mean?

This cluster is an indicator for the size of the clothing market. The larger the size of the market, the higher the score due to the correlation between fashion waste and the clothing market. The data for this cluster was taken from Eurostat.

Spending Per person, euro per capita (2018)

The average amount of money spent by each person on new clothes per year.

Percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)

The percentage of the country’s economy that is made up by the clothing market.

Results
Country Spending Per person, euro per capita (2018) Score (0-100) Percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) Score (0-100) Sum score Cluster Score 0-100
Italy 1,080.0 18.6 3.7 13.3 32.0 100.0
Portugal 800.0 46.1 4.1 0.0 46.1 90.2
Austria 1,270.0 0.0 2.9 40.0 40.0 94.4
United Kingdom 1,150.0 11.8 3.2 30.0 41.8 93.2
Belgium 950.0 31.4 2.3 60.0 91.4 58.9
Czech Republic 350.0 90.2 1.8 76.7 166.9 6.8
Denmark 990.0 27.5 1.9 73.3 100.8 52.4
Spain 680.0 57.8 2.7 46.7 104.5 49.9
Finland 880.0 38.2 2.1 66.7 104.9 49.6
Germany 910.0 35.3 2.3 60.0 95.3 56.2
Netherlands 1,020.0 24.5 2.3 60.0 84.5 63.7
France 670.0 58.8 1.9 73.3 132.2 30.8
Ireland 760.0 50.0 1.1 100.0 150.0 18.4
Poland 400.0 85.3 3.1 33.3 118.6 40.1
Hungary 250.0 100.0 1.8 76.7 176.7 0.0

The second hand cluster

What does this mean?

This cluster indicates the amount of exported pre-owned clothing per country that will most likely be part of another country’s second hand market.

Yearly export of worn clothing (Tonnes) 

The amount of second hand clothing and other worn items exported out of the country in tonnes was obtained from The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database

This factor is an indicator for the amount of clothing which is disposed of in a sustainable manner in the studied country. The higher the weight of worn clothing exported, the more people are donating their old clothes. Donation is preferable to throwing clothes in the bin, since they would otherwise most likely end up in a landfill, which is the most destructive disposal technique for the environment.

Results
Country Yearly export of worn clothing (Kilograms per person) Score 0-100 Cluster Score 0-100
Italy 2.6 9.2 90.8
Portugal 2.1 6.1 93.9
Austria 4.6 22.1 77.9
United Kingdom 5.9 30.5 69.5
Belgium 16.7 100.0 0.0
Czech Republic 3.4 14.5 85.5
Denmark 2.6 8.9 91.1
Spain 1.3 0.5 99.5
Finland 2.3 7.0 93.0
Germany 6.0 30.8 69.2
Netherlands 9.0 50.6 49.4
France 1.2 0.0 100.0
Ireland 2.4 7.5 92.5
Poland 4.8 23.0 77.0
Hungary 5.0 24.6 75.4

Methodolgy 

The study of the European countries polluting the most from a textile waste perspective is a comparative analysis of the handling of fashion waste in 15 countries in the European Union. 

In order to establish a ranking, data on textile waste from 2016 was sourced from the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat). The selected countries were then examined by the following factors: Total quantity in tonnes (textile waste and by disposal technique), spending on new clothing, share of the clothing industry on the gross domestic product (size of the clothing industry and of the market) and export volume of worn clothing (second hand). The calculation was carried out using an evaluation system that rated each factor of the analysed countries between 0 to 100. While the least sustainable country in each factor received a score of 100, the most sustainable one received a score of 0. The final ranking is a sum of all the factors. 

More information on the definition of the factors, the calculation and all sources can be found in detail in the methodology.