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Reuse and Recycling of Clothing and Textiles--A Network Approach



The accelerated pace of consumption in the Western world has led to an increase in clothing and textiles disposed of in the garbage rather than being reused or recycled. The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of how clothing and textile consumption can become more sustainable by demonstrating how members of a network view and deal with this problem. The study is based on meetings over one and a half years and on a survey. Different views on the problem as well as various solutions on how to increase reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles are presented, including means and challenges. A macromarketing perspective, involving different actors in society, is necessary in order to make consumption more sustainable and for finding long-term solutions. We argue that understanding symbolic consumption and the fashion system can contribute to the macromarketing study of societal development from a sustainable perspective.
Reuse and Recycling of Clothing and Textiles A Network Approach
Karin M. Ekströma
, Nicklas Salomonsonb
a Professor of Marketing, School of Business and IT,
University of Borås, S-501 90 Borås, Sweden.
b Associate Professor, School of Business and IT,
University of Borås, S-501 90 Borås, Sweden
+46 33 435 44 79
This is a post-print of an article which has been published in Journal of Macromarketing, 2014
by SAGE Ltd. All rights reserved. © Karin M Ekström and Nicklas Salomonson. Available
online at:
Use the following reference when citing the paper:
Ekström, K. M. and Salomonson, N. (2014). Reuse and Recycling of Clothing and Textiles A
Network Approach. Journal of Macromarketing. 34 (3), pp. 383-399. doi:
Corresponding author:
The accelerated pace of the consumption in the Western world has led to an increase of clothing
and textiles disposed of in the garbage rather than being reused or recycled. The purpose of this
article is to increase the understanding of how clothing and textile consumption can become
more sustainable by demonstrating how members of a network view and deal with this problem.
The study is based on meetings over 1,5 years and a survey. Different views on the problem as
well as various solutions on how to increase reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles are
presented, including means and challenges. A macromarketing perspective, involving different
actors in society, is necessary in order to make consumption more sustainable and for finding
long-term solutions. It is argued that an understanding of symbolic consumption and the fashion
system can contribute to the macromarketing discipline when studying societal development
from a sustainable perspective.
sustainability, reuse, recycle, network, consumption
The consumption of clothing and textiles has increased in the Western world during the last few
decades parallel to the development of the consumer society. For example, statistics show that
the private consumption of clothing and shoes increased by 53% in Sweden during 19992009
(Roos 2010). This trend is also noticeable in the UK where the volume of clothing sold
increased by 60% during 19952005 (Morley et al. 2006). The accelerated pace of clothing
consumption has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of textile waste (see e.g., Madsen et al.
2007; Morgan and Birtwistle 2009). A Swedish study (Carlsson et al. 2011) indicates that each
person disposed 8 kg of textiles in the garbage every year. Another study (Gustafsson and
Ekström 2013) shows that 62% of Swedes dispose of usable clothes (not socks or underwear)
that they no longer want to use in the garbage. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) Office of Solid Waste assesses that Americans throw away more than 68 pounds (30.8 kg)
of clothing and textiles per person per year, and that clothing and other textiles represent about
4% of the municipal solid waste (Claudio 2007, p. 449). In the UK, an average consumer throws
away 30 kg of clothing and textiles per year (Allwood et al. 2006). This is a major
environmental problem, particularly since the production of textiles requires significant natural
resources. For example, in order to produce 1 kg of cotton, it takes between 7,00029,000 liters
of water and between 0.3 to 1 kg of oil (Fletcher 2008). Rather than disposing clothes and
textiles, reusing and recycling them would be more environmentally sound. In this article, reuse
is defined in accordance with Morley et al. (2006, p. 2) as the use of the original product function
(e.g., clothing reused as apparel to cover the body). Recycling is defined as the use of the
material properties (e.g., as a fire retardant non-woven material in a mattress spring cover)
(Morley et al. 2009, p. 2). Hence, reuse and recycling can prolong product usage and material
life cycles.
Previous research on reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles has, to a large extent,
focused on micromarketing issues, considering individual and managerial aspects of
sustainability (Birtwistle and Moore 2007; Domina and Koch 2002; Ekström et al. 2012;
Ekström and Salomonson 2012; Mannetti, Pierro, and Livi 2004; Morgan and Birtwistle 2009).
We argue in this article that it is necessary to consider the macromarketing aspects of
sustainability (de Coverly et al. 2008; Kilbourne 2004; Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero
1997). Previously, de Coverly et al. (2008, p. 290) emphasized that waste is an important issue
within the macromarketing domain. In order to better understand the problems with waste and
the different dimensions of municipal solid waste management, such as environmental, economic
and social aspects (Morrissey and Browne 2004), a more wide-ranging view of the problem is
needed rather than a narrow microscopic perspective. Increased waste as a result of increasing
consumption is a global problem that requires solutions based on cooperation between different
actors in society. We find support for this argument in Wells (1993) article where he discussed
the need to have a mixed perspective from academia, business, and government.
This article is based on a study of a Swedish network of major clothing retailers,
recycling companies, charitable organizations, consumer organizations, environmental
organizations, branch organizations, and governmental agencies. The network was formed with
the intention of trying to find solutions to the problem of increasing waste of clothes and textiles
among households. The study was conducted in Sweden, a Western country that has achieved a
high degree of recycling due to a nationally established system. In 2011, 92% of glass, 74% of
paper packaging, 68% of metal, and 26% of plastic packaging were recycled from Swedish
households (FTI 2013). In 2009, newspaper recycling was 91% in Sweden (FTI 2013).
Politically, waste management is emphasized in Sweden as well as in many other countries in
Northern Europe. However, Sweden lacks a national system for collecting clothing and textiles,
which may explain why the reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles is relatively low. Since
the consumption of clothing is also high in other Western countries, we believe they can learn
from this example on how to increase the reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles.
The purpose of this article is to increase the understanding of how clothing and textile
consumption can become more sustainable by demonstrating how members of a network view
and deal with the problem of clothes and textiles being disposed of in the garbage by households
rather than being reused or recycled. The study presents different views (company, consumer,
and society) on the problem of textile and clothing waste and how consumption can be more
sustainable. Different solutions to solve the problem of increasing textile and clothing waste are
presented. The article also emphasizes the importance of recognizing how symbolic
consumption as well as the fashion system, including fast fashion, contributes to the substantial
societal problem of increased consumption of clothing and textiles.
We first discuss the consumption of clothing and textiles, as well as their reuse and
recycling, in general. This is followed by a discussion on the need for macromarketing and the
importance of considering consumption when dealing with sustainability. Thereafter, the
method is presented, followed by the results, discussion, and conclusions.
Consumption of Clothing and Textiles
Even though modern consumer culture originated in the 18th century (Slater 1997), purchasing
and disposal has accelerated over the last few decades. The increasing amount of consumer
goods is noticeable within department stores, houses, and garages filled to the brim, and at
second-hand markets and at refuse dumps. Expanding hyper-consumption is encompassing all
spheres of our lives (Lipovetsky 2011). Commenting on the role of consumption in people’s
lives, Assadourian (2010, p. 187) writes: “there is an increasingly common pattern across
cultures to find meaning, contentment, and acceptance primarily through what we consume.
Apart from economic reasons such as increased welfare, social (symbolic consumption) and
cultural (fashion system) factors also contribute to increased consumption of clothing and textiles
(Ekström and Salomonson 2012). Consumption is nowadays a significant social marker for
showing who you are and what you want to be. The importance of symbolic consumption has
increased parallel to the development of consumer culture during the last few decades and
thereby also has contributed to high levels of consumption (Ekström 2013; Ekström and Glans
2011). Bauman (1998) even argues that consumption has replaced the significance of work as a
status indicator. Clothing and textiles for home interior are examples of symbolic consumption
reflected in social comparison, conformity, and distinction (Bourdieu 1984; Ekström 2010).
People are influenced by others, but at the same time they have a desire to be perceived as being
unique. However, Campbell (1996) is critical of placing too much emphasis on symbolic
consumption when discussing clothes. A person’s choice of clothes may have to do with what
the person already has in the wardrobe, what he/she can afford, and is therefore not necessarily a
conscious act to show one’s identity. Other researchers have also questioned the free choice
advocated in postmodern marketing (e.g., Lodziak 2002). Furthermore, it needs to be recognized
that symbolic consumption concerns not only new clothes, but also second-hand clothes, as well
as ecologically produced clothes.
Fashion plays a major role in decisions about consumption. It represents social
differentiation, mobility, and identity in society (Crane 2007). Gonzaléz (2007) also discusses
how fashion is about social distinction and assimilation. Fashion allows a person to “mark”
his/her identity, but its fragility makes it also possible for people to change their identity
(Gonzaléz 2007). One crucial aspect of fashion is the novelty that actually allows consumers to
embrace new fashions, but also to change their tastes (Campbell 2007). Fashion contributes to
an accelerated pace of consumption. Campbell (2007) discusses how in the 18th century in
Western Europe a rapid pace of change known as fashion became apparent in dress as well as
other consumer goods. For clothing, the rapid pace of change increased over time parallel to the
development of the consumer culture and mass production. For example, haute couture clothing
was copied in industrial production (Ekström 2012). During the last few decades, fast fashion
involving combinations of short product life cycles, limited editions, and low prices have
increased (Byun and Sternqvist 2008; Cachon and Swinney 2011). Advanced technology, rapid
manufacturing, and supply chain control are the key elements (Barnes and Lea-Greenwood
2006). Moreover, an increased interest in fashion in clothing and textiles in interior decoration is
noticeable in programs on TV about fashion, fashion blogs, and an increased number of
museums exhibiting fashion (Ekström 2012).
Increased consumption overall is not sustainable in the long run (Cohen 2011; Jackson
2009). In the case of clothing and textiles, problems with over consumption and waste
negatively affect our environment. Growing criticism of fast fashion and mass consumption, for
example, has become manifest in presentations of anti-consumerist ideas by different artists (see
e.g., Biehl-Missal 2013). Consumption is a central issue when trying to become a sustainable
society. Prothero, McDonagh, and Dobscha (2010) suggest that consumption is a locus for
change. They argue that the ascendancy of consumption in modern cultures allows for changing
practices and altering the dominant social paradigm (DSP) that emphasizes quality of life as
being determined by increasing levels of consumption (Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero
1997). By better understanding the motivations behind consumption, it may be possible to
become more sustainable. Connolly and Prothero (2008, p. 142) write: “Rather than focus on the
issue of whether green consumption can work as a strategy, we should perhaps try to gain a
greater understanding of the process that has led people to believe that they, as individuals, can
help solve global environmental problems. People are not always aware of the environmental
effects of the consumption of clothing (Ekström et al. 2012). Connolly and Prothero (2003)
found that Irish consumers did not link their consumption habits with environmental destruction.
While a majority of consumer research has focused on purchasing behavior, it is
necessary to better understand product disposition in order to get a more complete understanding
of the cycle of consumption (de Coverly et al. 2008). As many marketing tactics encourage a
throwaway spirit, marketing academics ahave a moral obligation to understand waste (de
Coverly et al. 2008). We share this view and also the more encompassing view that definitions
of marketing should delineate a macro agenda as suggested by Shultz (2007). More research is
needed to consider the full consumption cycle, including recycle and reuse (Prothero et al. 2011),
and more studies on waste are necessary to understand the motives behind disposal. De Coverly
et al. (2008) discuss how consumers are socialized to avoid waste and have garbage collectors
keep it out of sight. The authors found that people became uncomfortable when faced with
waste and then started to question their consumption levels. Throwing no longer needed items of
clothing and textiles into the garbage does not require expending time and energy to transport
items to a recycling station or recycling center. In Sweden, recycling stations are usually in close
proximity to where consumers live, whereas recycling centers are further away and also
encompass more kinds of waste to sort, such as refrigerators. Furthermore, throwing clothing
away can be convenient, but also a way to avoid showing others that some consumption has been
frivolous. Clothes are very closely connected to personal identity (Woodward 2005), which may
influence some people to discard them rather than giving them to charity. Another reason for not
reusing and recycling clothes could be that consumers are unaware of this possibility. The
garbage provides an easy way to get rid of the excess. De Coverly et al. (2008, p. 297) write:
The ability of informants to forget about their waste and to disregard the consequences is
perhaps symptomatic of the way society operates. Alternatively, it may be the result of
decades of successful socialization against waste. At best, this is mass senility, but at
worst, it constitutes a manifestation of cultural doping and deserves greater scrutiny by
the macromarketing academy.
Reuse and Recycling
There is relatively little research on when and how to dispose of a product and when disposal can
lead to alternate usage by another person (Prothero et al. 2011). According to the seminal article
by Jacoby, Berning, and Dietvorst (1977), a consumer has three general choices when
contemplating disposition: keep the product, get rid of it permanently, or dispose of it only
temporarily. When getting rid of it permanently, the consumer can throw it away or abandon it,
give it away, sell it, or trade it (Jacoby, Berning, and Dietvorst 1977). The option of recycling
has developed over time (e.g., Mannetti, Pierro, and Livi 2004). Still, research in marketing on
how to reduce waste is lacking. Waste is culturally embedded societal problem. It is not
sufficient to consider waste as waste management, marketing, and consumer research (de
Coverly et al. 2008).
A Swedish study showed that 21% of people dispose of clothing because they are tired of
them (Ungerth 2011). Young adolescents (1619-years-old) were more likely than others to
think along these lines. The reason could be that young consumers have grown up in a consumer
culture and are often more sensitive to fashion trends and symbolic consumption. Wattanasuwan
(2005) argues that consumption is employed symbolically to create and sustain the self, but also
to locate us in society. The latter function may be of particular importance for young consumers
who are in search of establishing an identity or rather a variety of identities in different
situations. Piacentini and Mailer (2004) found that teenagers’ clothing choices were bound to
their self-concept and used both as a self-expression and for judging people and situations they
encounter. In addition, clothing made the wearer more confident and capable. Research from
the Netherlands showed that the average amount of time that a person keeps his/her clothes in the
wardrobe is 3 years and 5 months (Fletcher 2008). During this time, the clothes are used on
average for 44 days and from 2.4 and 3.1 days between washings.
At the same time, developing second-hand cultures are of importance for understanding
practices of consumption (Gregson and Crewe 2003). Purchases of second-hand clothing on the
Internet are growing rapidly (see, e.g., HUI Research and 2012). Reasons include
economic constraints, what is considered trendy, and concern for the environment. However,
research indicates that consumers often do not associate giving clothes to charity with
environmental benefits, but rather for philanthropic reasons (Ekström et al. 2012). Apart from
private consumers selling to each other over the Internet, in markets, or via second-hand stores,
an increasing number of companies and charity shops deal in second-hand goods. Overall,
shopping for second-hand goods has become more popular and socially acceptable over the last
few decades.
In Sweden, people give 3 kg/person/year, in total 26,000 tons, to charitable organizations
(Carlsson et al. 2011). Of this, 73% (19,000 tons) are sent abroad for aid or sold for export; 12%
(3,000 tons) are sold in Sweden; and 15% (4,000 tons) are disposed (Carlsson et al. 2011). A
study by Tojo et al. (2012) shows that more than half of the textiles collected by charitable
organizations in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are exported. Exporting, however, is not
without problems since it may have a negative impact on developing countries ability to foster
their own textile production (e.g., Cline 2012). Consumers in developing countries may prefer to
buy cheaper second-hand clothes than domestically produced clothes. In addition, fast fashion
poses a problem for charitable organizations that have to handle increasing masses of decreasing
quality (Cline 2012). Instead of being sold in stores, low quality fast fashion clothes are
compressed and sold to textile recyclers for a lower profit (Cline 2012).
From a historical perspective, the recycling of clothing and textiles once was common in
the making of rugs, mattresses, and furniture. Even though this practice has diminished over
time, it can be expected to increase in the future due to environmental motives as well as
economic factors, such as an increase in the price of raw materials like cotton. However, even
though reuse and recycling are important actions to reduce the amount of waste, they still are not
sufficient for dealing with the detrimental effects that increased consumption has on the
environment. De Coverly et al. (2008, p. 299) write: “Strategies such as DEFRA’s ‘Reduce, Re-
use, Recycle’ are essential but only partial solutions to the growing waste mountain, since they
tackle the symptoms not the cause.
A Need for Macromarketing
As indicated earlier, many previous studies on sustainability have had a micromarketing focus
that dealt with individual choices or managerial issues. However, this presents a limited
perspective on environmental problems including the increase in clothing and textile waste.
Dolan (2002) criticizes the fact that research on sustainable consumption often assumes that it is
the rational individual who is the cause of ecological problems. Instead, he suggests that we
need to regard the social, cultural, and historical contextualizations of consumption, as well as
consider consumption practices as relations between individuals.
Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero (1997) argue that principles of micromarketing may
in fact have decreased consumers’ quality of life and added to the degeneration of our natural
environment. By this, they mean that the separation of the object of consumption from nature is
detrimental in that the image is being consumed rather than the object. Dolan (2002) argues that
nature and culture interact and should therefore not be viewed as opposites. The complexity of
consumption in society needs to be acknowledged, especially its role in identity shaping in a time
of growing individualization (Dolan 2002). The increased focus on symbolic consumption
should be recognized, but also criticized, as suggested by Wattanasuwan (2005) who argues that
it may enslave us in the illusive world of consumption. It is problematic when the style and
color of the clothes have a stronger impact on purchases rather than the modes of production and
environmental effects. Individuals involved in marketing can play an important role in raising
awareness and thereby establishing a sustainable eco-fashion market (Yan, Hyllegard, and Blaesi
2012). The role of contemporary artists should be considered since they sometimes critique and
resist fashion and consumption (Biehl-Missal 2013).
Even though a vast amount of research on sustainability has focused on micromarketing
issues, a growing number of macromarketing studies have appeared (Assadourian 2010; Dolan
2002; Kilbourne 2004; Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero 1997; Prothero et al. 2011; Prothero,
McDonagh, and Dobscha 2010; Schaefer and Crane 2005). Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero
(1997) emphasize that macromarketing means the institutions of industrial societies need to get
involved. As Dolan (2002, p. 180) expresses:
Essentially, the goal of sustainable consumption needs to be seen as a political project,
recognizing the power relations between social groupings (capital and labor, the state and
sectional interests and alliances, business and consumers) and between cultural value
systems (environmentalism and consumer sovereignty, capitalism and socialism,
collectivism and individualism).
In order to solve societal problems, actors with different perspectives and motivations need to
meet. The network in the present study was established based on the notion that societal
problems need to be solved by different actors collaborating rather than competing.
When discussing environmental problems such as waste, the role of the consumer versus
the citizen must be considered. To what extent is the consumer willing to sacrifice time sorting
the clothes for reuse and recycling rather than throwing it in the garbage? To what extent does
environmentally sound behavior need to be reinforced by taxes or incentives? For example, a tax
on plastic shopping bags in Ireland resulted in a 90% decrease in the consumption of plastic bags
(de Coverly et al. 2008). Prothero et al. (2011) argue that it is necessary for governments to
increase the public’s environmental awareness, for example, by educational programs in schools,
TV, and social media. When governments get involved, do they consider the citizen or the
consumer? Nowadays, the traditional distinction between the citizen and the consumer often
overlaps (Trentmann 2007). Individual actions, regardless of whether the consumer is acting as a
consumer or a citizen, as well as actions undertaken by the companies and governmental
agencies, need to be considered to solve the problem with waste. Waste needs to be dealt with in
policy discussions (de Coverly et al. 2008).
Martens and Spaargaren (2005) discuss the politics of sustainable consumption in the
Netherlands and argue that environmentally friendly consumption practices today are a joint
responsibility for government, industry, and citizenconsumers (Martens and Spaargaren 2005).
This view represents the macromarketing perspective advocated in this article. Examples of joint
initiatives to solve sustainable consumption problems are abundant. For example, in the
Netherlands, the “Platform True Prosperity” consists of two-dozen organizations such as NGOs,
consumer groups, charities, religious organizations, and trade unions (Martens and Spaargarten
2005). Another example in the Netherlands is the National Initiative for Sustainable
Development (NIDO), consisting of governments, industries, civil-society groups, and scientists
(Martens and Spaargarten 2005). The latter appears to be more in line with the network in the
present study focusing on thematic programs. Sometimes, unexpected alliances emerge, such as
McDonalds and Greenpeace worked together on environmental problems (Prothero, McDonagh,
and Dobscha 2010).
It is interesting to reflect upon why companies get involved in finding sustainable
solutions. One reason could be that companies want to be prepared when consumers ask about
sustainable communication (McDonagh 1998). Prothero, McDonagh, and Dobscha (2010) argue
that consumers improved understanding of the effects of production and consumption on the
environment forces marketing executives to rethink their own business practices and
philosophies. Another reason could be that companies also realize the importance of taking
actions on sustainability for the sake of the planet.
In order to increase the understanding of how clothing and textile consumption can become more
sustainable, a qualitative research approach consisting of a network of significant stakeholders
(see Table 1) was established. The stakeholders were chosen based on their positions as
important actors in society having knowledge of clothing and textile design, manufacturing, and
selling (clothing retailers and branch organizations); transportation (transport companies);
charity, second-hand, and reuse (charitable organizations); waste handling and recycling
(recycling companies and branch organizations); consumer interests and behavior (consumer
organizations); and citizens interests, regulations, permits of waste handling and laws concerning
the environment (municipalities and government agencies). Our approach, involving many
voices, has a polysemic touch involving rich and multiple meanings (Kozinets 1999). The
stakeholders were also chosen because they represent three macromarketing perspectives
company, consumer, and society (see Table 1).
[Insert Table 1 about here]
The first meeting was held at Gekås Ullared, Scandinavia’s largest department store, in
January 2011. Subsequently, the network met seven times up till September 2012 for the
purpose of this study at one of the companies/organizations in the network (see Figure 1).
[Insert Figure 1 about here]
Inspiration for the network idea comes from Walmart in the United States, which has
developed similar types of networks in order to solve sustainability problems and reach
innovative solutions that result in financial and environmental revenue gains (Martin and
Schouten 2009). In our network, a consumer perspective directs the finding of solutions to the
problem. In other words, the solutions for increasing the reuse and recycling must be easy for
the consumer to act upon.
One definition of a network is participants having common ambitions, benefiting from
joining, participating on equal grounds and voluntarily, organizing the network themselves,
having dynamic meetings, and planning the time for the meetings (KKR 2003). A new field of
research, “governance network research,” considers a non-hierarchical interaction between
public, semi-public, and private actors (Sörensen and Torfing 2008). In our network, public,
semi-public, and private actors participated to deal with the problems at hand. Green alliance is
another term used for formal or informal collaboration among organizations aiming to find
solutions to common environmental problems (Crane 1998). Continuity is important in order for
the network to stay alive. Apart from the meetings, the network has stayed in touch via e-mail
and a virtual area on the Internet where the researchers and other members of the network have
shared documents.
The two researchers coordinating the network led seven meetings that took place over a
year and a half. The researchers acted as moderators during the meetings. At the first meeting,
issues and topics of importance for the research were discussed among the network members.
This generated a basis for discussions in the following meetings and was also a way to delegate
assignments to individuals and groups of members, which were to be presented later on in the
project. Subsequent meetings focused on specific themes regarding the reuse and recycling of
clothing and textiles. Member organizations were also asked to present their views on relevant
issues. The agenda for each meeting was, to a great extent, influenced by what had happened at
the previous meeting in order to proceed forward. Some meetings included shorter workshops
covering certain topics, which needed to be discussed in more detail. Researchers and
representatives of the organizations that were not part of the network were sometimes invited to
present topics relevant to the network.
The qualitative network approach is similar to the focus group interviews where the
participants are encouraged to discuss different topics with each other. There are several reasons
for choosing this approach. First, the reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles is an under-
researched area and more knowledge is needed about how different stakeholders in society can
work with issues of reuse and recycling. Second, the network approach allows the different
stakeholders’ perspectives to be shared. Also, new ideas about solutions might emerge as
different members, who are important stakeholders when it comes to reuse and recycling of
clothing and textiles, convene. Third, the network also enables the stakeholders to meet on a
“neutral ground” and more freely express their ideas about different solutions. The clothing
retailers in the network are competitors and the network, led by the researchers focusing on an
issue of common interest, makes it easier to put aside potential conflicts of interest.
The meetings were tape-recorded and detailed notes were distributed to the members
after each meeting. The empirical data in this article is based on the recordings and notes from
the seven meetings that took place during the one and a half years, as well as on a short survey
distributed to the members after one year in Spring 2012. The analysis started from the very first
meeting and continued throughout the entire study. Interpretations were made based on the
meetings, the e-mail conversations, and the shared Internet site. Different views, perspectives,
and competencies among the network members were identified. The survey distributed to the
members covered questions about their organizations work with the issues of reuse and
recycling today as well as how they could work toward increasing this in the future. It also dealt
with how they thought the reuse and recycling could be increased in society overall. They were
also asked to provide their reflections on the network in general. The purpose of the survey was
to gather additional insights about issues discussed in the network in order to understand more
specifically how each member organization works with reuse and recycling internally. It was not
intended to generate quantitative data for statistical analysis. The survey was descriptive and
analyzed in accordance with traditional qualitative techniques, that is, an iterative process of
sorting and categorizing the results.
Overall, the analysis in this study resembles that of action based research (see e.g.,
Nielsen and Svensson 2006) in that the purpose of the study was to identify different views and
try to find collaborative solutions to the problem of increased clothing and textile waste among
Swedish households. Even though the researchers acted as moderators, they also had a role in
setting the agenda for the meetings in order to move forward with the problem-solving process.
An advantage of involving two researchers was that they could compare their interpretations of
the meetings and the survey results. The analyses were thereby strengthened by using
triangulation in the form of different investigators (see Lincoln and Guba 1985). The network
has continued to meet after this study was concluded, but is now moderated by other researchers.
In the results, we first demonstrate how the members work with the reuse and recycling of
clothing and textiles. The network’s view on how the reuse and recycling of clothing and
textiles can be increased in society overall are then presented. Thereafter, obstacles for the reuse
and recycling are identified. Finally, reflections about the pros and cons of the network approach
are presented.
Network Members' Work with the Reuse and Recycling of Clothing and Textiles
Table 2 summarizes how the different actors in the network work with the reuse and recycling of
clothing and textiles. The results are presented in more detail below.
[Insert Table 2 about here]
Reuse of Clothing and Textiles. For the charitable organizations, the handling of clothing and
textiles has been a normal part of their business for a long time, in some cases more than 100
years. The public can give items directly to their second-hand stores or put it in special
collection bins that are placed throughout the cities and the countryside. Charitable
organizations also collect the clothing and textiles at peoples’ homes or workplaces. The items
are then sorted manually in terms of quality and “the best parts” are sold in the second-hand
stores. Most of what is left is mainly shipped abroad, to Europe, Africa or Asia, where it is sold
at the local markets. The items remaining are shipped to the municipalities’ incineration plants
where they are converted into energy for district heating or electricity. Recently, several of the
charitable organizations have also tried to increase the amount of collected clothing and textiles
by cooperating with retail companies.
Several of the participating clothing retailers in the network are in the fast fashion
segment of the clothing industry. Nevertheless, they demonstrate a willingness to increase the
reuse of clothing through different projects. As mentioned, a majority of the companies give
away clothes that have not been sold or have some defects to charitable organizations. Another
example of cooperation is Lindex (clothing retailer) and Myrorna’s (charitable organization)
campaign to encourage customers to turn in clothes that they no longer want, for which they
receive a rebate coupon to use the next time they shop at Lindex. The aim was to increase the
customers’ awareness of the need to give their clothes a second chance. Yet another example
is Gekås Ullared’s (retail store) cooperation with Human Bridge (charitable organization), named
Textilreturen (i.e., The Textile Return), where customers have been given the opportunity
since Spring 2012 to donate clothes, textiles, and toys to charity. “Textilreturen” is located at the
premises of Gekås Ullared.
Retail and textile chains encourage and support sustainability among member
organizations through education. Consumer and environmental organizations mainly aim to
provide information to members and the public about reuse of clothes, as well as organizing
activities that encourage such behavior. One example is the Swedish Society for Nature
Conservation that organizes Swedens largest yearly clothes exchange event as a means to
inform about the environmental benefits of reusing clothes.
The two waste and energy companies in the network are owned by municipalities. These
companies see waste as a resource and work to reduce the amount of waste. Borås Energi och
Miljö, for example, has worked to achieve this goal by providing information about
sustainability to consumers. The governmental organization Swedish Environmental Protection
Agency has mapped the flow of textile waste in Sweden. The agency has also arranged meetings
between the recycling company FTI, charitable organizations, and The Swedish Waste
Management and Recycling Association (a branch organization for waste) with the purpose of
improving cooperation so that consumers can have more accessible systems for the collection of
textile waste. The agency has also put reuse and recycling of textiles as a prioritized area in the
Swedish waste plan. This means that municipalities are obliged to take this into account in their
waste plans.
Recycling of Clothing and Textiles. Some of the charitable organizations in the network work
with the recycling of clothes. For example, the Swedish Red Cross (SRC) cooperates with the
Swedish Prison and Probation Service in a project where the prisoners shred cloths into natural
fibers to be used by the shipping industry. The charitable organizations also have activities to
redesign and remake items. One example is Stadsmissionen (charity organization) that has a
department where gifts from the public such as clothes are made into new items. For example,
an adult sweater can be turned into a pair of pants for a child. SRC has volunteers that work on
turning textiles into cushions, pillows, and tablets. The charitable organizations also send
material to Europe for recycling.
To some degree, the clothing companies also work with redesign. In 2012, Gina Tricot
(clothing retailer) sold a clothing collection that design students had made from a temporary
surplus of clothes from Gina Tricot. Indiska (clothing retailer) allows some of their suppliers to
turn their textile waste and surplus into new clothes, cushions, pillows, lampshades, or chairs.
Gina Tricot, KappAhl, and Lindex (clothing retailers) also make clothes based on recycled
material such as polyester and cotton.
The recycling companies in the network focus on finding solutions that allow for the
recycling of clothing and textiles. One example is Stena Recycling, which recycles textile waste
from manufacturers who sell textiles for industrial use. Stena Recycling is also examining new
areas for textile waste, such as insulation to reduce noise and padding for furniture.
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency works together with other governmental
agencies in the Nordic countries to prioritize the recycling of textile waste. The agency also
works to find goals, indicators, and incentives that can prevent textile waste. An important part
of this is to find solutions in cooperation with different actors in society, for example, by
discussing environmental improvements with the clothing industry or by stimulating the
development of new technologies for the reuse and recycling of textiles.
The Networks View on How to Increase the Reuse and Recycling of Clothing and Textiles in
The volume of collected clothing and textiles has to increase in order to decrease the amount that
otherwise ends up in the garbage. Garments that are no longer suitable for reuse need to be
collected for recycling. A substantial increase in the volume is necessary in order to create a new
textile recycling industry that creates new products based on recycled materials. This would
decrease the need for new raw materials. The current volume is too small in order to establish an
economically sustainable recycling industry. Clothing and textiles also need to be collected
continually in order to make it economically justifiable. Table 3 summarizes ideas suggested by
the network on how to increase the volume of clothing and textiles for reuse and recycling. The
solutions are presented in more detail below.
[Insert Table 3 about here]
Increase Consumer Knowledge. In order to expand volume, it is necessary to increase consumer
knowledge about the importance of reuse and recycling. The actors in the network agree that
they should share this responsibility. For example, charitable organizations need to inform the
public about how clothes can be reused and why it is important to do so, considering both
charitable and environmental reasons. That is, the link between consumption of clothes and the
effect on the environment needs to be clarified. Thus, the network initiated a nationwide
communication campaign Dont throw clothes or textiles in the garbage to inform consumers
about the need to view used clothes and textiles as a resource and not as something you throw
away. The vision was to double the amount of clothing and textiles collected during a three-year
period. Students were engaged in developing this campaign. They suggested different
campaigns targeting various groups of consumers, such as people who had recently moved or
who were about to Spring clean their closets. The students also suggested that social media
should be used to reach people. A final campaign, however, had not been launched when this
article is written. Overall, a consumer perspective focusing on what is important from the
consumers' point of view is crucial. One challenge is that second-hand items are still not entirely
accepted by everyone in our society.
Easy Access to Collection Bins. The network agreed that it was necessary to make it easier for
consumers to dispose of used clothing and textiles in collection bins. The number of collection
bins and ease of access needs to be increased. It was suggested that municipalities place
collection bins for clothing and textiles where bins for recycling of paper, glass, plastic, metal,
and packaging are already placed (recycling stations) as well as at other accessible places in
cooperation with the charitable organizations. For convenience, collection bins could also be
placed at apartment buildings and close to residential areas. Another suggestion was that
companies could promote the collection of their employees’ professional and private clothing
and textiles. Challenges are to find optimal placements of bins and to work out permissions from
property owners to place the bins.
Increase the Collection of Worn/ragged Clothing and Textiles. Consumers should also be
encouraged to leave not only the clean clothing and textiles without major flaws, but also items
that are worn/ragged for collection since they can also be recycled. An example of this within
the network is the cooperation between the University of Borås, the municipality owned waste
and energy company Borås Energi och Miljö, and Human Bridge. Two bins, to be used by
students and employees, were placed at the university, one for the clean and usable clothing and
textiles and one for the clean and worn/ragged clothing and textiles (see Figure 2). The results
will be evaluated in terms of weight and quality, thereby indicating how successful it is to also
collect the worn/ragged clothing and textiles for recycling purposes. It will also provide some
indications of the degree to which consumers are able to sort the two fractions correctly.
[Insert Figure 2 about here]
The network identified several challenges. Comprehensible information needs to be
developed and placed on the bins, thus making it easier for consumers to distinguish between the
clean and usable items and the clean and worn/ragged items. Consumers also need to understand
that worn/ragged clothes and textiles should also be considered as an asset for recycling
purposes. While vintage clothes may be viewed more positively, second-hand clothes have some
negative connotations and are still not entirely accepted by everyone in society. In comparison
to the low wage countries, costs in Sweden for the collection and handling of used clothing are
high. This is also the case for tailoring services, which results in their limited use. Furthermore,
in Sweden there is the lack of trust among citizens regarding charitable organizations
(Förtroendebarometern 2013; GfK 2008).
Develop a National System for the Collection of Clothing and Textiles. The network agrees that
in order to increase the volume of the clothing and textiles collected, a nationwide system needs
to be established based on cooperation among governmental organizations, municipalities,
companies, charitable organizations, and interest groups/organizations. Currently, only the non-
profit charitable organizations have a system for collecting clothing and textiles. A challenge for
the future is to find channels and markets that enable contacts between the buyers and sellers of
used clothing and textiles. It is also important to formulate goals about the amount that can be
collected and to discuss logistical solutions that facilitate these goals to be fulfilled.
The municipalities have a key role in implementing and promoting a nationwide
recycling system. Rules and routines, similar to the collection and handling of paper, glass,
plastics, and metals should be developed for clothing and textiles and all municipalities in
Sweden need to interpret the rules about the handling of waste in similar ways. Furthermore,
ownership of collected material will be a crucial issue for finding solutions that benefit many
different actors. Today, municipalities own all the household waste left at the recycling
stations/centers and can also choose the charitable organization with which to cooperate.
Municipalities need to more fully recognize the work done by charitable organizations and
should make it easier for these groups to get permission for placing collection bins at municipal
recycling centers/stations and close to residential areas. In addition, the municipalities need to
increase their knowledge about which charities are serious and legitimate. Only such
organizations should be allowed to place their collection bins on municipality owned premises.
According to the recycling companies, a functioning collection system needs to prevent
textiles from being mixed with other forms of waste. More research is needed about the future
supply and demand of raw materials in the clothing industry and the material flows of clothing
and textiles (e.g., statistics about charity, second-hand shops, online sales, gifts between friends
or family). The network would prefer to have a voluntary, rather than mandatory producer
responsibility system, where producers engage in taking care of the waste from clothing and
textiles. The sorting of collected clothing and textiles constitutes an additional challenge for
developing a national system. Today, sorting is very labor intensive and costly. Technological
solutions for sorting have been tested in Holland, but need to be developed for larger scale
Create a Certification and Accreditation Program for Charitable Organizations. The network
agrees that a need exists to achieve a certification and accreditation program for charitable
organizations. Apart from raising the status of responsible charitable organizations, it would also
make it easier for people to know which groups to trust. Also, charitable organizations need to
become more transparent (e.g., how much is collected and what happens with collected items
and money generated). Sweden can learn important lessons from the Netherlands, which has a
certification system. Criteria for obtaining this certification and accreditation need to be
developed. A dialogue among charitable organizations, the Swedish Environmental Protection
Agency, and municipalities has already begun. The challenge is to develop a credible
certification and accreditation program.
Develop Technology for Recycling. The network identified some obstacles, such as the fibers
from recycling being of too low quality for use in the textile industry. Overall, textile waste is
not homogenous when it comes to material and colors and thus is difficult to separate. New
recycling technologies are needed that can generate “good as new” fibers meeting the standards
required in the fashion industry. Research from a resource and environmental standpoint is
needed about techniques for the recycling of fibers and about which materials are most suitable
to recycle. Also, problems related to mixed materials (e.g., polyester and cotton) and fasteners
(e.g., zippers and buttons that need to be removed) need to be solved. In addition, the network
suggested the use of economic incentives for technological innovations. By cooperating, the
clothing industry can together create an increased supply and demand for recycled fibers.
International cooperation is also important.
Design for Durability and Longevity. The network has also discussed the need for the clothing
industry to increase their efforts to manufacture clothes of a better quality, which last longer and
are more suitable for reuse. Furthermore, clothes are not always designed for recycling. The
Swedish Environmental Protection Agency suggested that the clothing industry could take the
initiative to design clothes that last longer and that later can be reused and recycled. The
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation emphasized that it is important to develop labels
stating what clothes are made of, where they are produced, and what is their environmental
impact. The Society also suggested that the clothing industry develop design for durability and
longevity and develop collections that can be combined with previous ones regarding color and
design. A challenge is that consumers have to learn to determine good quality since there is not
always a correlation between price and quality or brand and quality. Furthermore, fast fashion
items are often of too poor quality for reuse. It is necessary to help the consumers learn more
about the materials and quality as well as how to take care of their clothes so that they can last
Reflections About the Network Approach
As part of the survey, the members of the network were also asked to reflect upon the pros and
cons of the network approach. The pros and cons identified in the survey and during the network
meetings are summarized in Table 4.
[Insert Table 4 about here]
One advantage of the network was that it provided an opportunity for substantial sharing
of information and knowledge between the members. The members agreed that in order to
reduce the amount of clothing and textile waste, it was important to have knowledge not only
about the textile material, but also about areas such as technology, fashion, environmental issues,
consumer behavior, logistics, recycling processes, as well as how to collect used clothing and
textiles. For example, as a result of the network, recycling companies are able to better
understand the challenges faced by clothing companies and charitable organizations. The
network also facilitates benchmarking between different actors and branches.
Another advantage with the network approach is that it enables actors to meet other
actors whom they might not have met otherwise. It also enables actors to make governmental
agencies and other decision makers more aware of the environmental issues that they encounter.
For example, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has been able to present ideas and
get comments on environmental issues that the agency faces. Also, the Swedish Chemicals
Agency has viewed the network as an opportunity to raise the awareness of the need to minimize
chemical use in the production and future recycling of clothing and textiles.
Different work groups have been started within the network, such as the ones responsible
for the nationwide communication campaign Dont throw clothes or textiles in the garbage
targeting consumers and for the certification of charitable organizations. The timing of the
network was apt. Before it was established, many members had already discussed the need to
raise their awareness and knowledge about the reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles in
their organizations. There had also been discussions between the members of different branches
to start some form of a network. This influenced their interest and involvement in the network.
A final advantage raised by the members is that researchers funded by a research
foundation have led the network. This promotes more neutrality toward the different members
and a greater possibility to discuss matters, in contrast to a project financed by a particular
industry with its own agenda. The researchers have also kept the members up to date with the
results of the research on consumption, reuse, and recycling.
A possible disadvantage is that the research approach in the network takes a longer time
than having a consultant perform the work, which is often more concentrated and limited in time.
Another disadvantage is that the network is fairly large. Having many participants makes the
decision process more difficult. Even though several different views on issues can contribute to
a variety of possible solutions, this can also make it harder to reach a unanimous decision. Also,
solving problems together, for example by forming committees, can be time consuming and
inefficient if not all involved actors are actively engaged. Furthermore, conflicting perspectives
may prevent sharing of information and knowledge, even though this was not explicitly
expressed either in the survey or during the network meetings. A possible disadvantage of
benchmarking is that it may involve too much comparison and, therefore, lead to a lack of
innovative ideas.
In this article, we argue that a macromarketing perspective (Assadourian 2010; Dolan 2002;
Kilbourne 2004; Kilbourne, McDonagh, and Prothero 1997; Prothero et al. 2011; Prothero,
McDonagh, and Dobscha 2010; Schaefer and Crane 2005) is necessary in order to solve
environmental problems. A microscopic and one-sided view requiring either individual
consumers or producers to solve the problems or reuse and recycling is insufficient when trying
to find long-term solutions that are also economically viable. By including various actors having
different perspectives, experiences, and competencies, solutions acceptable to the majority can
be reached. Environmentally friendly consumption practices are a joint responsibility for
government, industry, and citizen-consumers (Martens and Spaargarten 2005). Even though
cooperation for solving environmental problems is becoming more common (Prothero,
McDonagh, and Dobscha 2010), it is still an under researched area.
In this study, we have presented the results from a network of major actors in Sweden,
who are interested in reducing the amount of clothing and textiles waste among Swedish
households. The actors have varying levels of knowledge about clothing and textiles such as
design, manufacturing and selling, transportation, charity, second-hand and reuse, waste
handling and recycling, consumer/citizen interests and behavior, regulations, permits of waste
handling, and laws concerning the environment. The network approach, with different
perspectives on the problem, presents alternative views and solutions.
Even though increased consumption is not sustainable in the long-term (Cohen 2011;
Jackson 2009), this was not something that the network emphasized as an issue to be addressed
during the meetings. Several of the clothing companies are in the fast fashion segment and, for
obvious reasons, are not interested in reducing consumption. They consider their involvement in
reuse and recycling as a way to act sustainably at the same time as it justifies continued
consumption. In addition, their interest in recycling in particular is justified by the fact that it
can reduce costs significantly. Recycled fibers for production are less costly than new raw
material. Another motive for participating could be that when consumers ask about
sustainability, companies may want to be prepared with answers (McDonagh 1998; Prothero,
McDonagh, and Dobscha 2010).
As a result of the increasing economic value of textiles, many actors today are interested
in collecting clothing and textiles that consumers no longer want. Charitable organizations have
traditionally received such clothes; however, clothing companies have also begun to run
campaigns to receive used clothing. Recycling companies who historically have worked textiles
have also found a renewed interest in used clothing and textiles. Furthermore, due to a fast
changing fashion system, several of the clothing companies have an abundance of textiles or
clothing that never have been used and can be reused or recycled, something that both the
charitable organizations and recycling organizations have discovered. Based on this study, we
can reflect on the fact that economic value directs interest in sustainability.
The increased interest in used clothing and textiles also triggered a discussion in the
network about the need for a certification program for charitable organizations involved in the
reuse and recycling of clothing. Actors who pose as if they are collecting clothes and textiles for
charity, when in reality they are collecting to make money, are seen as a major problem. This
undermines the public trust in charitable organizations and can lead to a decreased amount of
collected material. Consequently, the efforts to get certified can be seen as a way to reduce the
consumers' uncertainty about where to leave unwanted clothes and textiles. Consumers are
socialized to avoid waste (de Coverly et al. 2008). People want to limit the visibility of waste
and, therefore, garbage is an easy solution. Easy access to charitable organizations’ collection
bins and an affirmation that the clothing and textiles received by them are in fact turned into
philanthropic efforts could both increase the amount of collected material and ease the
consciousness of waste-avoiding consumers.
The network emphasized the need for a nationwide system in order to reduce the amount
of clothing and textiles waste in households, something that is also applicable to other countries
in the Western world. Several years ago, Sweden established a successful nationwide solution
for recycling newspaper, glass, metals, plastics, paper packages, and batteries. This required an
immense amount of organization and a long-term perspective in order to function over time.
These lessons should be kept in mind when establishing a nationwide system for the reuse and
recycling of clothing and textiles. The network agrees that the municipalities, which today are
responsible for other forms of recycling, can also play an important role in the reuse and
recycling of clothing and textiles. However, in order to play this role, issues regarding the
ownership of the collected material need to be resolved. How can charitable organizations,
which need both reusable and recyclable material for their charity work, benefit? How can the
clothing companies, who want fibers from recycled material for their production, benefit? These
issues, as well as finding a nationwide solution for increasing the amount of recycling and reuse
of clothing in Sweden, highlights what Dolan (2002) describes as power relations between social
groupings and between cultural value systems. We agree with Dolan (2002) that the goal of
sustainable consumption needs to be seen as a political project. Different perspectives and
motivations of various actors in society need to be recognized in order to reach solutions for
societal problems.
The network meetings have illustrated the complexity of the problem to be solved. In
order to increase the amount of clothing collected for reuse and recycling, consumers have to be
made aware of today’s environmental problems (see Prothero et al. 2011). The link between
consumption and clothes and the effect on the environment needs to be clarified. Previous
studies have found that consumers do not always understand the link between consumption and
its effect on the environment (Connolly and Prothero 2003). Education about the effects of
consumption on the environment can be achieved by developing educational programs in
schools, on TV, and through social media as suggested by Prothero et al. (2011). Here, it is
important to recognize that learning in the context of consumer socialization is a lifelong process
(Ekström 2006; Littlefield and Ozanne 2011). Consequently, consumers of all ages need to be
approached. Prothero et al. (2011) emphasize the government’s role in increasing the public’s
environmental awareness. We recognize this as being important, but also see a need for
cooperation between many different actors (such as the members in the network) to inform
consumers about the importance of sustainable consumption.
The network has focused on a consumer’s perspective and acknowledged that it is crucial
to make it easier for consumers to give clothes for reuse and recycling rather than disposing in
the garbage. A major factor for establishing a high recycling rate for other types of waste in
Sweden has been that the recycling bins are placed in close proximity to where consumers live.
This is also important for increasing the amount of clothing and textiles for reuse and recycling.
If consumers have to spend too much time traveling to recycling bins, it requires a sacrifice of
time and cost, and also affects the environment negatively.
The network has also recognized the importance of developing technological solutions in
order to increase the amount of clothing and textiles received for recycling. However, a number
of practical problems related to recycling need to be solved, for example, mixed materials (e.g.,
polyester and cotton) that are difficult to sort, and zippers and buttons that need to be removed.
Since sorting of collected material is done manually in Sweden, new technology could cut these
costs. Technology can also aid consumers, for example, by developing an application for smart
phones that indicates where the nearest recycling station or charity store is located.
The network has led to several collaborations between the members, such as
Textilreturen. Also, charitable organizations and clothing companies are working together by
collecting used clothes from consumers in stores and then giving them to the charities.
Many of the obstacles identified by the network are not going to be solved in the short-
term. For example, fast fashion clothes are often of too low quality for reuse. Since the fast
fashion business model has detrimental effects on the environment, it needs to be replaced with
more sustainable fashion in the near future. The high costs of collection handling, involving
sorting of the used clothing and textiles in Sweden is another obstacle, as well as the fact that
second-hand is still not fully accepted in society.
The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of how clothing and textile consumption
can become more sustainable. It shows how members of a network view and deal with the
problem of clothing and textiles being tossed in the garbage rather than being reused or recycled.
The results demonstrate that in order for the consumption of clothing and textiles to become
more sustainable, a macromarketing approach is necessary, one that involves many different
actors in society taking responsibility for increasing the volume of reused and recycled clothing
and textiles.
This article has contributed in several ways to the macromarketing discipline and has
implications for both researchers and practitioners. First, it has presented different views
(company, consumer, and society) on the problem of how consumption can be more sustainable.
The results show individual as well as collaborative ways to deal with this problem and,
specifically, a need for a multitude of competencies, including consumption, production,
material, technology, and logistics, working together. Second, the network approach in this
study has contributed a number of different solutions to solving the problem of increased waste
of clothing and textiles. These include increasing consumer knowledge about reuse and
recycling, making the collection bins more accessible, increasing the collection of worn/ragged
clothing and textiles, developing a national system that is long-term, environmentally as well as
financially sound, establishing a certification and accreditation program for charity
organizations, developing technology for recycling, and designing for durability and longevity.
We suggest that this network approach should continue to be deployed in a number of different
sustainability areas, both among researchers and practitioners.
A third contribution to the macromarketing discipline is the importance of recognizing
how symbolic consumption as well as the fashion system, including fast fashion, contributes to
the substantial societal problem of increased consumption of clothing and textiles. Throught
their advertising campaigns, marketing professionals are heavily involved in emphasizing
symbolic consumption and the fashion system. We would like to see a future where they
recognize the effect this have on sustainability in the long run. Most research on symbolic
consumption and fashion has had a micromarketing perspective. The macromarketing discipline
would benefit from understanding symbolic consumption and the fashion system when studying
societal development from a sustainable perspective. It is also a challenge for practitioners as
well as researchers to understand how environmental consumption can be represented and
emphasized in symbolic consumption.
This study has focused on household waste of clothing and textiles, but the network
actors have all indicated that there is also a problem with waste in the production system of the
clothing and textile industry. Again, this reflects how socio-cultural aspects such as fashion, fast
fashion, and symbolic consumption have come to dominate the consumer culture during the last
few decades. The negative effects of consumption, resulting in an increase in the amount of
clothing and textiles waste, both in households and within the industry itself, are starting to be
recognized, but the problems are substantial and challenging. Nonetheless, a macromarketing
perspective plays a vital role for understanding and solving this environmental problem since
solutions merely based on individual action is not sufficient. Sustainable consumption is a
political project; therefore, it is necessary to involve a multitude of perspectives.
Reuse and recycling are part of the solutions, but the underlying problem of increased
consumption needs to be addressed by changing lifestyles and consumption patterns. In a
consumer society filled with items and an increasing amount of waste, we foresee that
discussions on how to deal with and reduce waste are going to be vital in coming years. Both
rational solutions and creative thinking will be needed to consider waste as a resource rather than
something of diminished value. It is also important to learn from history since in the past
societies had fewer items and people had to care for things, as well as reuse and recycle them.
Competencies regarding how to mend clothing and textiles should be maintained and valued.
For future research on waste, we suggest interdisciplinary research that recognizes and considers
knowledge regarding consumption, design, production, technology, material, and logistics.
Even though we understand the necessity of reducing the purchase of fast fashion in the
long run, we want to warn against moralizing. Everybody participates in the catwalk of
consumption and social comparison is unavoidable in a society where consumption over time has
become more important as a social marker and for showing participation in society. The
purchase of cheaper, fast fashion clothes is one way for low-income consumers to be included
rather than excluded. Nevertheless, sustainable alternatives to fast fashion have to be developed
and marketed. This development as well as the advancement of sustainable consumption overall
require a macromarketing perspective.
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Author Biographies
Karin M. Ekström is Professor of Marketing at University of Borås, Sweden. Her research
concerns family consumption, consumer socialization, collecting and the meaning(s) of
consumption. She has edited several books (most recently Beyond the Consumption Bubble with
Kay Glans) and published in Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Journal of Macromarketing,
Journal of Marketing Management, and Research in Consumer Behaviour. Current research
projects concern reuse and recycling of clothes, culinary tourism, and marketing of art museums.
Nicklas Salomonson is Associate Professor of Business Administration at University of Borås,
Sweden. His research concerns communicative interaction in service encounters, technology in
services, customer misbehavior, and sustainable consumption. He has published in journals such
as Industrial Marketing Management, Marketing Theory, Journal of Business Communication,
and International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences. Current research projects concerns
different aspects of customer misbehavior in areas such as public transport and retail.
... Some clothing companies are also involved in the remake/ redesign activities for their surplus stocks (Paras and Curteza, 2018). These companies allow suppliers or intern students to re-convert unsold items to new clothing products (Ekstrom and Salomonson, 2014). Uniforms and office wear in various organisations are changed frequently to keep up to date with the latest fashion trends. ...
Purpose The process of redesigning is one of the essential steps in upcycling, which comprises ideation, reconstruction and fitting. This paper aims to study the best practice of upcycling in the clothing industry. This study is an attempt to standardise upcycling/redesign process. Design/methodology/approach An exploratory approach was adopted to perform the research. This study draws on the multiple organisations involved in the upcycling of clothes. The organisations chosen for this study are located in Sweden and Romania using the snowball technique. Semi-structured interviews, direct and participatory observation approaches were used to collect information. The collected data are systematically analysed using NVivo 10 software. Findings This paper provides empirical insights into the diverse practices of upcycling. Process, product and demand-based were three fundamental approaches to performing the redesigning process. The fabric quality and durability, variations in size, colour and pattern, skills and efforts required in the extraction of parts and environmental consciousness and awareness were the main factors influencing upcycling process. Research limitations/implications The use of the European case may miss best practices from the other region. This study may help scholars to understand the method of upcycling. A practitioner of upcycling can use the findings to improve and standardise the existing process. This research is beneficial for society, as this leads to the reduction of textile wastage. Originality/value This paper conceptualises some of the best practices of clothes redesign. This provides a good insight for the organisation for the improvement in the redesign business.
... Textile waste recovery and recycling efforts can assist in improving diversion effect through waste-to-art or waste-towealth process. The process to re-use, along with recycling textile waste is quite beneficial because they lengthen products lifecycle and usage (Ekstrom and Salomonson, 2014). This was because "reuse" is a form of source reduction when resources can be recovered for an extending lifestyle while "recycling" is the process of changing waste material into a new material or product. ...
This research delves into the possible experimentation that could contribute to the massive use of textile waste materials and incorporate its value for visual art aesthetics (both aesthetically and utilitarian). It also highlights systemic efficiencies and inefficiencies in textile waste recovery and recycling efforts that could assist in environmental sustainability through the waste-to-art process. The process in this study is hoped to increase both input and output benefits to the recycling system. This will no doubt reduce textile waste in landfills. Although textile and apparel products serve an important function in society, like many products designed for consumption and use, there is an end-of-life disposal process that is inevitable, hence, textile wastes are continually generated in great quantities. The possibility to explore avenues to harness the aesthetic potentials of textile waste for interior decoration is imperative. Literature review and studio experimentation form part of the researcher"s methodology for the study. Finally, the research proffers possible solutions necessary for the growth of the waste market and the need to harness the inherent economic and environmental benefits.
... Also, some scholars have pointed to a perceived barrier as lack of social acceptance leading to concerns about one's status (Hur, 2020). This is in line with the fact that other scholars have found a social stigma connected to shopping for secondhand clothes as some consumers fear other's negative attitudes towards such consumption (Ekström et al., 2014). ...
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In recent years, the increasing environmental problems have put mounting pressure on consumers to change behavior to reduce the negative environmental impact of current lifestyles. This applies to a clothing context in which there is an urgent need for more sustainable consumption practices. Despite the reported increasing environmental concerns among young people, secondhand clothing consumption struggles to gain momentum in the Danish market. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate young Danish consumers’ perception of secondhand clothing consumption. To pursue this purpose, the aim of this paper is to illuminate how young mainstream consumers co-constructively account for their current clothing consumption, and how symbolic meanings of secondhand clothing may refrain them from adopting such consumption practices. Taking point of departure in Consumer Culture Theory, this study employs an exploratory qualitative approach with an empirical outset in four focus groups with a sample of twenty-two young Danish consumers. This is done in order to gain an in-depth perspective that can add to the accumulated pool of knowledge within the academic field of secondhand clothing consumption. Arising from a systematic qualitative thematic analysis, findings point to a highly complex set of personal and social needs that current clothing consumption practices play in the construction of identity for young consumers. This complexity poses challenges towards the young consumers’ adoption of secondhand clothing consumption, when coupled with the diverse set of symbolic meanings and barriers identified in this body of work. Although the findings are highly context-bound, the managerial implications pertain to the role of communication in appealing to young consumers with secondhand clothing and highlights the importance of understanding the symbolic meanings in this market to shape the desired brand image.
... • Ekström and Salomonson (2014) discussed how to create solutions to the growth of clothing and textiles being discarded as garbage rather than being recycled. The researchers held seven meetings over 1.5 years with representative stakeholders (e.g., clothing retailers, recycling companies, consumer organizations), which yielded many suggestions including heightening consumer awareness, convenience of collection bins, and developing better recycling technologies. ...
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This chapter reviews marketing scholarship on environmental sustainability. The literature covers several themes of both consumer behavior and firm-level topics. Consumer issues include their assessment of efficacy and the extent to which they are aware and sensitive to environmental issues. Numerous interventions and marketing appeals for modifying attitudes and behaviors have been tested and are reported. Consumers and business managers have both been queried regarding attitudes of recycling and waste. Firm-level phenomena are reflected, including how brand managers can signal their green efforts to their customers, whether doing so is beneficial, all in conjunction with macro pressures or constraints from industry or governmental agencies. This chapter closes with a reflection on the research.
... The apparel industry is still primarily based on a 'take-make-waste' concept. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away more than 68 lbs. of clothing every year into landfills (Ekström & Salomonson, 2014). The carbon, waste and water footprint of a garment can be reduced by 73% by following a natural path of production. ...
To better implement sustainability initiatives in the Circular Economy (CE) age, benefiting of Total Quality Management (TQM) principles, the category of Social Enterprises (SE) manifests an enormous potential. Nonetheless, the above views have been lightly researched, providing research gaps in at least three areas: (1) TQM as an open model, expanded, and boundaryless that involves stakeholders in the value chain through value co-creation processes; (2) TQM and CE and (3) TQM and SE. Through this paper, we reconceptualize TQM with the lens of viable systems approach, CE and SE, while concluding with an illustrative case study and COVID-19 implications. Methodologically, we apply the inductive approach through the illustrative case of Patagonia by emphasizing also how COVID-19 influenced quality management and company-level circularity. This study revealed that the common denominator of TQM, CE and SE is the Triple Bottom Line (i.e. economic, social and environmental sustainability). Also, the concept of ‘value’ was another unifying notion, especially the value co-creation, social value and shared value. ESG implications showed that companies like Patagonia went through profit shrinking to safeguard societal and environmental welfare, with supply chain implications that involved factory workers and partners.
... It is essential to consider the efficient use and management of natural resources by reducing the raw material consumption through reuse and recycling of textile products regarded as waste, which would offer a sustainable approach for textile waste management. To improve the current behavior of clothing consumption and waste generation, an environmentally and financially sound long-term national program should be established [9]. ...
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The expansion of clothing and textile industry and the fast fashion trend among consumers have caused a rapid global increase in textile waste in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. Worldwide, 75% of textile waste is landfilled, while 25% is recycled or reused. Landfilling of textile waste is a prevalent option that is deemed unsustainable. Promoting an enhanced diversion of textile waste from landfills demands optimized reuse and recycling technologies. Reuse is the more preferred option compared with recycling. Various textile reuse and recycling technologies are available and progressively innovated to favor blended fabrics. This paper aims to establish reuse and recycling technologies (anaerobic digestion, fermentation, composting, fiber regeneration, and thermal recovery) to manage textile waste. Improved collection systems, automation of sorting, and discovering new technologies for textile recycling remains a challenge. Applying extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy and a circular economy system implies a holistic consensus among major stakeholders.
... Most of the respondents (87%) preferred frequency parameter of discarding as per the convenience of time. Ekström and Salomonson (2014) suggested that both clothing and textile, reuse and recycling were under-researched areas and that more information was needed on how reusing and recycling could be utilized by different stakeholders in society. ...
Purpose This study aims to investigate the secondhand clothes (SHC) donating behavior phenomenon using the cognitive-affective-conative model and examines the moderating role of COVID-19 knowledge on the relationship between the desire to donate and actual SHC donating behavior. Design/methodology/approach A total of 160 questionnaires were distributed to potential participants who donated their clothes to thrift shops during the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA. Findings A total of 145 useable surveys were collected for analysis. The study found that the desire to donate SHC plays an essential role in enhancing actual SHC donating behavior. In addition, the study found that perceived responsibility and altruistic fear positively influence the desire to donate SHC. In contrast, individuals’ COVID-19 knowledge does not moderate the relationship between the desire to donate SHC and actual SHC donating behavior. Originality/value A limited empirical study uses the cognitive–affective–conative approach to SHC donating behavior. The findings of this study enhance the body of SHC’s theoretical knowledge and enhance individuals’ participation in donation programs in support of their community and humanitarian programs.
Global resource use and related emissions continue to rise despite decades of public and private sector marketing efforts to encourage more sustainable consumption. One question seldom addressed in the sustainability literature is the degree to which sustainable marketing mixes might paradoxically encourage higher levels of consumption by reducing purchase related guilt and costs. The current research examines fast fashion sustainability initiatives and finds evidence of moral self licensing and rebound effects that lead to higher predicted sales even among the most environmentally conscious consumers. Implications for sustainability researchers and practitioners are then discussed.
Advocacy bias is characterized by a preponderance of published articles that support an academic discipline’s favored causes and paradigms, and by the consequent relative absence of bias countering skeptical/falsifying publications. Such imbalance between paradigm/cause advocates and skeptics can be an indication of a research process that has been corrupted by a widely shared scholarly desire to generate supportive results. The current research makes an empirical contribution to the advocacy bias literature with a content analysis based framework that assesses the level of green marketing (GM) advocacy bias among 107 GM related articles from marketing’s Financial Times (FT) list journals and 9 GM related special issues (SI). Evidence of widespread GM advocacy bias is indicated by the almost complete lack of GM skeptical/falsifying articles. It is hoped that this first empirical examination of advocacy bias within the marketing discipline will inspire more discussion and research on the topic.
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Are we well dressed? Our clothes are getting cheaper, they follow fashion more rapidly and we’re buying more and more of them. At the same time, we hear more about poor working conditions in clothing factories, the greenhouse effect is becoming more threatening and the UK is facing a crisis in disposing of its waste. What should we do? This report aims to help answer that question, by looking at what might happen if the way that our clothes are made and used were to be changed. What would happen if we used different fibres, or different farming practices? What would be the consequence of washing our clothes in a different way, or keeping our carpets for longer? What would happen if more of our clothes were disposed of through clothes banks? In the UK we are already awash with information on these questions – so why read this report? Firstly, the report is intended to be neutral – it does not have an agenda, or seek to promote a particular change or approach. Secondly, it attempts to take a very broad view of the sector – encompassing the views of business, government and campaigners and trying to reflect the widest definitions of ‘sustainability’. Thirdly, it attempts to identify the potential for significant and lasting change by looking at what might happen if a whole industrial sector were to experience a change. The report is intended to be valuable to a wide range of interested groups. It is written for people in business – who have to balance their personal ethics and the concerns of their consumers with the need for their business to prosper. It is written for consumers who have a limited budget but are concerned about the impact of their shopping choices. It is written for campaigners and those in education, government and the media – to try to provide as balanced evidence as possible about the present and future impacts of the clothing and textiles sector. Five person-years of work leading to this report were funded by the Landfill Tax Credit scheme, through the Biffaward scheme administered by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and with 10% funding from Marks and Spencer. On the way to writing the report, we have received help from hundreds of people working in the sector and have attempted to acknowledge many of them inside the back cover. We would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of Marisa de Brito, who worked with us for the first half of the project, Jon Cullen who designed the graphics, sourced the photographs and edited and laid out the document, and our steering committee of Mike Barry from Marks and Spencer, Peter Jones from Biffa and David Aeron- Thomas from Forum for the Future.
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We know a lot about how consumers behave in acquiring products. Now it's time we learned more about how they actually dispose of those products that they don't consume and don't want to keep... especially appliances.
The reconsideration of tasks and responsibilities by central governments is an international phenomenon. A trend towards increased market mechanism (privatisation and deregulation) and decentralisation (territorial and functional) has become widely accepted since the early eighties under the leadership of the former political leaders of the United States (Reagan) and Great Britain (Thatcher). Although the political doctrines were harmonised, the methods of implementation were highly diverse. In the United States initially the decentralisation opportunities presented by ‘New Federalism’ were emphasised where local government had to rely once more on its own vitality (Agranoff, 1982). At the same time the opportunities offered by privatisation were primarily geared to contracting out (Kettl, 1993). In Great Britain from the outset government discontinued its interest in many sectors which were then left to the mercy of market forces (Swann, 1981). In the Netherlands where there were fewer state-owned industries to sell, options for reducing the scope of the public sector were sought through deregulation and privatisation.
The purpose of this essay is to provoke a more comprehensive, historically accurate, and meaningful definition of marketing. Toward that outcome, the author introduces a framework for marketing that argues for constructive engagement with a complex, conflicted, and increasingly interdependent world in which marketing can and should play an important role. The framework offers a new synthesis commensurate with ideals generally espoused in macromarketing. An illustration based on longitudinal study of Vietnam is shared, with implications for current global affairs and with new directions for meaningful marketing research and practice.