Study Examines Environmental Benefits of Clothing Reuse

Does the reuse of clothes result in environmental benefits? The answer seems intuitively obvious in light of disposal alternatives. However, researchers from the Technical University of Denmark decided to examine the question scientifically, conducting a comparative life cycle assessment of clothes that are incinerated versus those that are reused. The study report, entitled "Environmental Benefits from Reusing Clothing," was published last spring in International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

The Danish researchers examined all the activities associated with clothing reuse, including transportation and the recycling and disposal of clothing not suitable for reuse. It also surveyed consumers in second-hand shops in Sweden
and Estonia.

Based on the survey results, the researchers determined that the purchase of 100 second-hand garments would save between 60 and 85 new garments from production of virgin material. The analysis evaluated a range of impacts associated with clothing production, including human and ecotoxicity and global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers conclude that "the collection, processing, and transport of second-hand clothing have insignificant impacts on the environment in comparison to the savings that are achieved by replacing virgin clothing."