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More lower-temperature washes ‘cutting carbon dioxide levels’

The carbon footprint per tonne of UK clothing has been reduced by 8% since 2012.

Householders are saving 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by washing clothes at lower temperatures and ironing and tumble-drying them less, research suggests.

People are also throwing less clothes in the bin and wearing them for longer on average in comparison with a few years ago, while many are comfortable with simple repairs such as sewing on buttons, the study for waste reduction body Wrap has found.

But with relatively low prices and a growing population, the overall amount of clothing being sold has risen nearly 200,000 tonnes between 2012 and 2016, pushing up the environmental impact of the fashion sector.

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(Andrew Milligan/PA)

In an update to a report on the UK fashion and clothing industry first conducted in 2012, Wrap found the amount of clothing being sent to landfill has fallen from 350,000 tonnes to 300,000 in 2015 – a reduction in weight equivalent to 300 jumbo jets.

The new Valuing our Clothes: The Cost of UK Fashion report also found that people were looking after their clothes in a way that reduced environmental impacts, with people increasingly washing laundry at 30C instead of 40C.

Just over a quarter of washes (26%) were tumble-dried, down from nearly a third (32%) in 2012, while people were also ironing their clothes less, a survey of more than 2,000 people as part of the research revealed.

More energy-efficient washing and drying of clothes, a growth in second-hand sales and more use of fibres such as sustainable cotton, which reduces the environmental impact of production, have helped cut the carbon and water footprint for each tonne of clothing.

The carbon footprint per tonne of UK clothing has been reduced by 8% since 2012, and the water footprint is down almost 7%.

But the total amount of clothes bought rose to 1.13 million tonnes in 2016, causing 26 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from production to disposal and putting clothing fourth after housing, transport and food in terms of its impact on the environment.

Wrap launched a “sustainable clothing action plan” in 2013, a voluntary agreement whose signatories account for 58% of the sector’s retail sales by volume, with targets to reduce carbon, water and waste across the life cycle of products.

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(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The report found companies signed up to the agreement had cut carbon by 10.6%, water by 13.5%, and waste by 0.8%, with a reduction in the amount of clothes going to landfill of 14%.

These are again targets for 2020 to cut carbon by 15%, water use by 15% and waste by 3.5%, and reduce the amount of clothes going to landfill by 15%.

Steve Creed, Wrap’s director of business programmes, said signatories to the plan were not only well on their way to meeting their targets, but were outperforming the sector as a whole, particularly on sustainable cotton.

“It’s great too that fewer clothes are ending up in the residual waste, but overall our carbon footprint is rising so the next few years are critical in balancing growing demand with supplying clothes more sustainably,” he said.

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From Belfast Telegraph