Technical ReportPDF Available
Data for sustainability-oriented studies
and actions in the apparel sector
This work is licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0
International License.
This publication is the main result of a re-
search project with the same name, de-
veloped during the rst semester of 2017
with funds awarded by the programme
KIEM VANG (SiA). The project was host-
ed at the Amsterdam University of Applied
Sciences (CREATE-IT Applied Research)
and involved a consortium of partners in-
cluding NGO’s, companies, charitable or-
ganizations and knowledge institutions
(Saxion, Modint, Circle Economy, Sympa-
ny and MVO Nederland). Graphic design by
Silvio Lorusso and Dylan Degeling of the
Irene Maldini
Researcher at CREATE-IT, AUAS.
Laura Duncker
Researcher at CREATE-IT, AUAS.
Lidian Bregman
Student Fashion & Management
at Amsterdam Fashion Institute
Gunilla Piltz
Student Fashion & Textiles
Technologies at Saxion.
Marc Vooges
Director at Sympany.
Lisa Duscha
Student Fashion & Textiles
Technologies at Saxion.
Theresia Grevinga
Researcher at Saxion.
Gwen Cunningham
Program Lead in Circle Textiles
Programme at Circle Economy.
We are grateful for the contributions of:
Hein Daanen (VU Amsterdam)
Rebecca Breuer (AUAS)
Gino Thuij (GfK)
Marian Mclaughlin (AUAS)
Anonymous interviewees (Dutch sorters and collectors of PCT)
Volunteers participating in the container analysis session
Bernd Gulich and Adele Rinck
Rens Tap
Business developer at MODINT.
Fioen van Balgooi
Knowledge Manager in Circular
Economy and Climate at MVO
1. Purchase
The Dutch clothing mountain
Source: GFK. Includes clothing, footwear and accesories.
Sources: MVO Nederland, CBS, Rijkswaterstaat & Measuring the Dutch
Clothing Mountain. Destiny of separately collected textiles is based on
container analysis (non-representative sample). Pre-consumer waste
calculated on the basis of MVO Nederland percentage and GFK
3. disposal
2. USE
Source: Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain. Wardrobe information is
based on a small, non-represantative sample. Underwear and socks are
added on the basis of Euromonitor data (sets or packages of underwear
account for 1 item).
46 items
bought annually
per person.
173 items
in each personal
40 items are
annually disposed
of per person.
24 items are disposed with non-textile
materials and therefore incinerated.
items are not suitable for reuse.
These can be recycled.
items are rewearable and suitable
for the international second-hand
items are potentioally rewearable
according to the consumer, but
do not meet the international
second-hand standards.
3items per year are wasted
before arriving to the consumer.
123 items in
active use.
items in the wardrobe
are second-hand.
items were
not worn in
the past year.
items are separately collected:
The project ‘measuring the Dutch clothing mountain’ was funded by SiA’s KIEM-VANG programme. Download the final report here:
1. Purchase
The Dutch clothing mountain
Source: GFK. Includes clothing, footwear and accesories.
Sources: MVO Nederland, CBS, Rijkswaterstaat & Measuring the Dutch
Clothing Mountain. Destiny of separately collected textiles is based on
container analysis (non-representative sample). Pre-consumer waste
calculated on the basis of MVO Nederland percentage and GFK
3. disposal
2. USE
Source: Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain. Wardrobe information is
based on a small, non-represantative sample. Underwear and socks are
added on the basis of Euromonitor data (sets or packages of underwear
account for 1 item).
46 items
bought annually
per person.
173 items
in each personal
40 items are
annually disposed
of per person.
24 items are disposed with non-textile
materials and therefore incinerated.
items are not suitable for reuse.
These can be recycled.
items are rewearable and suitable
for the international second-hand
items are potentioally rewearable
according to the consumer, but
do not meet the international
second-hand standards.
3items per year are wasted
before arriving to the consumer.
123 items in
active use.
items in the wardrobe
are second-hand.
items were
not worn in
the past year.
items are separately collected:
The project ‘measuring the Dutch clothing mountain’ was funded by SiA’s KIEM-VANG programme. Download the final report here
Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................... 1
Chapter 1: Purchase ......................................................................................5
1.1 Retail Volume ..............................................................................................5
1.2 Retail Value ................................................................................................. 8
1.3 Value per item ..........................................................................................10
1.4 (Household) Spending on clothing, footwear, and textiles .............11
Chapter 2: Use ............................................................................................. 13
2.1 Introduction ............................................................................................... 13
2.2.1 Sampling and recruitment ................................................................ 13
2.4 Comparison with German wardrobes ................................................. 19
2.5 Conclusions including qualitative aspects ....................................... 21
Chapter 3: Disposal ....................................................................................28
3.1 Pre-consumer waste volumes ............................................................. 28
3.2 Post-consumer textile waste .............................................................. 30
3.2.1 Volumes of textile waste ................................................................ 30
3.2.2 Local collecting and sorting organizations ................................. 30
3.2.3 Post-consumer clothing and footwear waste ............................ 33
3.3 Textile waste destinations.................................................................... 34
3.3.1 Textile volume incinerated ............................................................. 34
3.3.2 Textile sorted ..................................................................................... 36
3.3.3 Textile reused locally ........................................................................37
3.3.4 Textile recycled locally .................................................................... 38
3.3.5 Textile volume exported .................................................................. 38
3.4 Textile container analysis ..................................................................... 39
3.4.1 Methodology and general results ................................................... 39
3.4.2 Product types .....................................................................................41
3.4.3 Materials ............................................................................................. 42
3.4.4 Fibre composition ............................................................................ 42
3.4.5 Conclusions ........................................................................................ 46
3.5 International comparison of post-consumer textile volumes and
management .............................................................................................47
3.5.1 United Kingdom ................................................................................. 49
3.5.2 Denmark ..............................................................................................51
3.5.3 Germany .............................................................................................. 52
3.5.4 France.................................................................................................. 53
3.5.6 Conclusions........................................................................................ 54
Chapter 4: Conclusions ..............................................................................56
4.1 Summary of the research ndings for the general public..............56
4.2 Recommendations to reduce Dutch textile waste ......................... 58
4.3 Recommendations for further research ............................................ 62
Glossary ...................................................................................................... 64
References ...................................................................................................67
This report aims at sharing knowledge relevant for sustainabili-
ty-oriented studies and actions in the Dutch apparel sector, with a
focus on clothing volumes. The apparel industry is said to be one
of the most polluting at a global level; however, we nd that dis-
cussions of its environmental challenges or the actions needed to
tackle them are often based on supercial or unreliable information.
This information is frequently disseminated by word of mouth and
non-scientic texts and nally accepted as valid. Moreover, some
actors working on practice-based solutions for the environmen-
tal challenges of the apparel industry build solutions and projects
based on these ‘facts. As a result, these actors risk focussing on
topics that are not as critical or relevant as was originally thought.
Clear, reliable data is needed to pinpoint the true challenges and
bottlenecks within the fashion system.
One example is the popular sustainable fashion strategy of pro-
duction on demand. This strategy is based on the common belief
that 30% of the clothes that are produced within the ready-made
industry do not reach the consumer and are wasted. The original
source of this percentage is unknown, but it has been used repeat-
edly in publications and events in the Netherlands. If manufactur-
ers are producing more than consumers actually want, starting by
individual consumer demand may be an effective approach to di-
minish clothing waste. However, previous research has pointed out
that this percentage is around 6% including production mistakes
(see section 3.1). In this context, the efcacy of turning the whole
supply chain up side down with the aim of reducing pre-consumer
clothing waste may be questioned.
Another knowledge gap tackled by this report is that of national
data. Sustainable fashion knowledge and actions within the Dutch
context are often based on foreign publications. The UK and Scan-
dinavia have been pioneers in the production of knowledge relevant
for the eld, therefore local studies and actions tend to generalize
that information, before applying it to the Dutch context. However,
in this report we show that trends in purchase, use, and disposal
of clothes can be different across western and northern European
nations. For example, Euromonitor’s data show that the amount of
clothes bought per year by Dutch consumers has been diminishing
slowly since 2007, while it has grown considerably in the UK and
Denmark (see Chapter 1).
The information compiled in this report focuses on the volumes
of clothes bought, used, and discarded by consumers in the Neth-
erlands, assuming that most garments consumed locally are pro-
duced abroad. Some sections are based on information that was
previously published elsewhere, while other knowledge was gener-
ated within this specic research project.
Chapter 1 focuses on the purchase phase and it is based on infor-
mation published in Euromonitor databases and provided by the
consumer research company GFK. What we intend with this chap-
ter is to make this information more accessible to readers in the
eld. We focus on the Dutch apparel sector, presenting the data in
a comprehensive way. For example, we compare retail volume per
capita and retail value per item in order to promote the appropria-
tion and dissemination of this information.
Chapter 2 presents data about the use phase, gathered within this
research project. We visited 50 individuals equally distributed in
terms of age, gender and domicile, and counted the amount of gar-
ments in their wardrobe, discriminating those clothes that had not
been used during the last year and the ones that had been used by
other people before (second hand). Moreover, the chapter includes
a similar study of German wardrobes and compares the outcomes
of both surveys.
Chapter 3 is about clothing disposal and includes data from a va-
riety of sources. Pre-consumer waste information is based on a
previous study done by MVO Nederland. Post-consumer waste data
is gathered by a review of existing publications and statistical data.
This information is complemented by a series of interviews with
post-consumer textile collectors and sorters. Moreover, in the con-
text of this research we sort and analyse 200 kg of textiles dis-
posed by Dutch consumers in detail.
Although the main scope of this publication is to promote realistic
and accurate strategies to tackle the issue of clothing volumes in
the Netherlands developed by others, we advance some recom-
mendations to reduce overall clothing volumes based on the re-
sults of this research in chapter 4.
The time frame considered in this report is 2000-2017. Within this
period, some signicant events affecting the Dutch apparel sector
took place. For instance, 2009 saw the critical point of the eco-
nomic crisis (see g. 0.1); moreover, this period coincides with the
popularization of fast fashion; lastly, a growing awareness of the
social and environmental effects of the clothing industry follows
the collapse of the garment factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in
2013. These and other issues can be linked to the data presented in
this report in order to put it in context.
Netherlands France Germany United Kingdom Denmark
Figure 0.1: Real GPD Y-O-Y growth in the Netherlands and other countries in the region
(%). Source: Euromonitor
With this report we hope to contribute to the development of a
more responsible apparel sector in the Netherlands. However, we
consider this a small rst step towards the generation and dissem-
ination of relevant knowledge. The lack of information in the sector
is remarkable, hence the brief list of references included in the lit-
erature review. A structural plan for knowledge production is need-
ed, in order to enable historical and international comparisons. We
include some recommendations in chapter 4.
Are synthetic materials substituting natural ones in domestic con-
sumption? Are Dutch wardrobes growing? Is the lifespan of prod-
ucts getting shorter? Which kinds of textile products are usually
discarded via household waste and which via textile collection?
What role do demographic characteristics of individuals play in the
variables above? The answers to these and other questions are
unknown for us, and we believe most of them have not been un-
covered yet. Informed readers are encouraged to contact us with
suggestions of sources that may not be included here.
Chapter 1: Purchase
1.1 Retail Volume
Figure 1.1 shows historical retail volume of apparel and footwear
in the Netherlands and other countries in the region on the basis
of Euromonitor’s gures. This is the volume of sales to consum-
ers, in this case the number of items of apparel and footwear sold
annually in each country. This includes online retail and excludes
second-hand clothes and informal retail such as street markets.
Sometimes items include more than one garment, such as in pack-
aging including several pairs of socks, and sets of underwear. Ac-
cessories such as hats and scarves are included but bags (travel
goods) are excluded.
These volumes account for the number of items per capita shown
in gure 1.2. According to Euromonitor (2017), the amount of cloth-
ing items sold per capita was growing slowly but steadily in West-
ern and North European countries until around 2005. The popular-
ization of fast fashion retailers, the economic crisis, environmental
and economic policies or environmental awareness may have had
particular effects in different countries. Figure 1.2 shows how after
that year national consumption rates have differed. For example,
in the UK annual individual purchases escalated up to 36.7 items
in 2016, while Denmark reached its peak between 2007 and 2010,
with 37.8 items. France and the Netherlands, on the other hand,
have been slowly decreasing their volume per capita since 2007. In
Germany developments have been more predictable, with a small
increase in purchase rates during the last 15 years.
Figure 1.1: Market Sizes | Historical | Retail Volume |in million units. Source: Euromonitor
Netherlands France Germany United Kingdom Denmark
Figure 1.2: International Market Sizes | Retail Volume | units Per Capita . Source:
Euromonitor statistics
According to Euromonitor, the average Dutch person bought 26
items of apparel and footwear in 2016. The peak of retail volume,
approximately 30 items per capita, was in 2007. From 2009 on-
wards the amount of items per person decreased. The difference
between 2002 and 2016 is three items (see g 1.3).
When comparing these gures with reported volumes of post-con-
sumer waste (see section 3.2.3), we note that Euromonitor’s esti-
mations for retail volume in the Netherlands are too low. The fact
that informal retail, such as street markets, is not accounted for
may partially explain this difference.
2002 2009 2010 2014 20152003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2011 2012 2013 2016
Figure 1.3: Dutch Market Size | Retail Volume | units Per Capita. Source: Euromonitor
GfK (2017), a consumer research company operating in the Nether-
lands, estimates higher volumes in the sector of fashion, shoes and
accessories. The main difference between Euromonitor and GFK
methods is that the former is based on data provided by companies
while the later accounts for consumer data. Moreover, GfK includes
purchases of Dutch inhabitants made abroad, informal retail (e.g.
street markets) and counts items sold in packages (e.g. includ-
ing several pairs of socks) separately. Their estimates are illustrat-
ed in gure 1.4. These gures (which exclude second-hand items)
seem more consistent with waste volumes (see section 3.2.3). Both
organizations identify a reduction in the retail volume per capita.
However, GfK recognizes this trend later in time, around 2011, and
estimates an increase in the items bought from 2015.
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 20 14 2015 2016
Figure 1.4: Fashion, shoes and accessories bought per capita (€). Source: GfK consumer
panel. Market: Total Fashion, Shoes & Accessories (excluding jewellery, bijoux and
1.2 Retail Value
Netherlands France German y United Kingd om Denmark
Figure 1.5: Market Sizes | Historical | Retail Value RSP | € million | Current Prices | Year-on
Year Exchange Rates. Source: Euromonitor statistics
Figure 1.5 shows historical retail value in the Netherlands and other
countries in the region on the basis of Euromonitor’s gures. This is
the total value of apparel and footwear sold to consumers per year,
per country. The value includes online purchases and excludes sec-
ond-hand clothes and informal retail such as street markets.
In analysing gure 1.5, the inuence of exchange rates (pounds to
euro) must be considered. Year-on-Year exchange rates might say
more about the irregular UK retail value line in g 1.5 than actual
retail value when it is accounted in pounds (see g 1.6).
Figure 1.6: Market Sizes | Historical | Retail Value RSP | million £ | Current Prices | Year-on-
Year Exchange Rates. Source: Euromonitor statistics
GFK Euromonitor
Figure 1.7: Total retail value and consumer spending in apparel and footwear (NL)
according to Euromonitor and GFK (in mn €).
Figure 1.7 compares retail value changes in the Netherlands ac-
cording to Euromonitor and consumer spending according to GfK
since 2007. A general trend of lower value in the sector is identied
by both organizations. However, there are signicant differences
around 2010. In line with differences in retail volume discussed
above, GfK estimates a peak during 2010 while for Euromonitor the
highest gures are those of 2007.
1.3 Value per item
Figure 1.8 shows international developments in the average value of
each item (in €) according to Euromonitor. These are calculated by
dividing retail value per retail volume annually. Again, the inuence
of exchange rates for the irregular representation of UK numbers
should be taken into account. Rendering from these gures, the
average value of French items has been stable at around €23, while
German items have increased their value by around €1. The aver-
age value for Danish and Dutch items has dropped signicantly, by
around €3 during the last 15 years.
Netherlands France Germ any United Kingdom Denmark
Figure 1.8: Market Sizes | Historical | Retail Value RSP | Unit Price | € per unit | Current
Prices | Year-on-Year Exchange Rates. Source: Euromonitor statistics
Fig 1.9 compares average value per item in the Netherlands accord-
ing to Euromonitor and GfK data. The methodological differences
introduced in section 1.1 should be considered when analysing this
gure. Estimates from both organizations are considerably differ-
ent, with Euromonitor’s data pointing to an average price of €25-
€27 per item during the last 10 years, while GfK indicates approx-
imately €16. Furthermore, Euromonitor’s gures show a decline in
prices while according to GfK prices have been relatively stable.
Overall, when compared with each other, Euromonitor estimates
less items sold at higher prices, while for GfK more items have
been sold at lower prices.
GFK Euromonitor
Figure 1.9: Average value per item of clothing and footwear according to Euromonitor and
GfK (€).
Despite the difference between sources, clothing prices have be-
come cheaper in comparison with the increase in all consumer
prices (general ination). Since 2002, the general ination in the
Netherlands rose by about 25%; therefore, clothing prices have
been decreasing at least in relative terms (CBS n.d.).
1.4 (Household) Spending on clothing,
footwear, and textiles
The national statistics ofce of the Netherlands (CBS,
Centraal Bu-
reau voor de Statistiek
) maps household spending on textiles and
clothes, excluding leather. Their estimates are not directly com-
parable with those of Euromonitor and GfK due to a difference
in the items included (CBS includes home textiles and excludes
footwear, while Euromonitor and GfK exclude home textiles and
include footwear). However, by looking at their gures next to each
other (g 1.10), other differences arise, with methodological issues
probably playing a larger role than product categories. In any case,
their estimates get closer in recent years. All three sources point
to a reduction in annual spending during the last ten years. For
Euromonitor and GfK, this coincides with a drop in retail volume
per capita (amount of items bought per person) and retail value per
item (price per product). We highlight the need for more detailed
analysis of these issues in future research.
GFK CBSEuromonitor
Figure 1.10: Annual retail value / spending per capita (€). Comparison of GfK, CBS and
Euromonitor data.
Chapter 2: Use
2.1 Introduction
This chapter describes the methods and results of a wardrobe
study of fty individuals living in the Netherlands. The objective of
this research was to nd out how many garments are kept in Dutch
wardrobes and how many have not been worn within the last year.
Previous international studies have pointed out that wardrobe sizes
have increased throughout history (Klepp & Laitala 2015); therefore,
an assessment of the current state of affairs is a starting point for
future historical studies. To our knowledge, there have not been
previous studies of Dutch wardrobes that are quantitative and reli-
able. Ruigrok Netpanel (Vlek & de Jongh 2016) did an online survey
for Marktplaats on the number of garments kept by Dutch con-
sumers and how many are not in use. Nevertheless, this research
is based on estimations of respondents collected by phone inquiry
and it is therefore not accurate. By examining Dutch wardrobes and
counting the number of garments owned we provide a more accu-
rate approximation to this issue.
2.2 Methodology
2.2.1 Sampling and recruitment
The wardrobe study was carried out with fty respondents living in
the Netherlands. Although the sample is not representative of the
Dutch population, an explicitly varied selection was made. Table
2.1 shows how respondents were distributed equally according to
three criteria: gender, age and locality. The study was carried out by
Lidian Bregman, a Fashion Management student from Amsterdam
Fashion Institute as part of her graduation project. Recruitment of
respondents started by asking her family, classmates and friends
and continued based on their indication in order to meet the sam-
ple requirements described above. The nal sample includes fty
people. Most of the respondents living in small cities, towns and
villages are from the north of the Netherlands.
Table 2.1: Distribution of 50 respondents according to sampling criteria
Male Female
Town /
village Small City Large City Town /
village Small City Large City
< 100.000
> 300.000
< 100.000
> 300.000
50 +
Tot a l 9 8 8 9 8 8
Table 2.4 shows the average number of garments owned by Dutch
individuals in relation to the sample variables: gender, age and lo-
cation. These results should be considered in perspective, taking
into account that this is a non-representative sample. However,
given that there are no previous studies with these characteristics,
the table can be useful to formulate hypotheses for future studies
including bigger samples.
Table 2.2: Template used for the wardrobe study
Garment type Number of garments in
Of which
Of which
Coats and jackets
(including rain jackets
and sport jackets)
Shoes and boots (pairs)
Bags (only bags used as
clothing accessories,
excluding shopping bags,
for example)
Scarves and shawls
Gloves (pairs)
Shorts (including
Sweaters and cardigans
Short-sleeve T-shirts
and tops
Long-sleeve T-shirts and
Blouses and Shirts
Columns 1 and 2 in table 2.4 show differences in the number of
garments owned by men and women. On average, women in this
respondent group own 60% more clothes than men (162 and 99
respectively). Moreover, women own more second-hand garments
and almost double of the number of unused garments than men.
Secondly, there are differences in the number of garments owned
by the three age categories. Columns 3 to 5 show that respond-
ents with an age between 18-30 own on average more garments
(170) than those with an age between 30-50 (134) and 50+ (75). The
number of second-hand clothes is also the highest in this group.
Thirdly, the number of garments varies in relation to locality (col-
umns 6-8). Respondents living in large and small cities own more
garments (149 and 140 respectively) than respondents living in vil-
lages/towns (104). Women between 18-30 years old living in large
cities own most of the second-hand and unused garments.
Table 2.3: Individual outcomes of the wardrobe count
number [1]
Age category [2]
Gender [3]
Locality [4]
Estimated number
of garments [5]
Total number of
garments [6]
garments [7]
use [8]
garments [9]
Percentage second-
hand [10]
RWR01 18-30 Female Town/village 125 171 48 72% 53%
RWR02 50+ Female Town/village 80 83 28 66% 00%
RWR03 18-30 Male Town/village 100 91 22 76% 1 1%
RWR04 50+ Female Small city 75 211 117 45% 52%
RWR05 50+ Male Town/village 80 72 17 76% 00%
RWR06 18-30 Female Big city 150 244 71 71% 22 9%
RWR07 18-30 Female Big city 200 216 32 85% 19 9%
RWR08 18-30 Female Small city 60 149 17 89% 26 17%
RWR09 18-30 Male Small city 80 70 297% 6 9%
RWR10 50+ Male Town/village 40 43 9 79% 00%
RWR11 18-30 Male Town/village 85 32 6 81% 7 22%
RWR12 50+ Female Town/village 40 44 6 86% 00%
RWR13 50+ Male Town/village 70 78 32 59% 00%
RWR14 18-30 Male Small city 120 193 31 84% 15 8%
RWR15 18-30 Male Small city 60 148 895% 1 1%
RWR16 18-30 Female Town/village 300 242 74 69% 00%
RWR17 18-30 Female Small city 200 260 69 73% 16 6%
RWR18 30-50 Female Town/village 75 108 32 70% 9 8%
RWR19 30-50 Male Town/village 106 67 18 73% 00%
RWR20 50+ Male Small city 50 45 9 80% 00%
RWR21 50+ Male Small city 60 57 10 82% 00%
RWR22 18-30 Female Small city 170 198 62 69% 23 12%
RWR23 30-50 Female Town/village 130 159 37 77% 6 4%
RWR24 18-30 Male Small city 75 112 27 76% 1 1%
RWR25 18-30 Female Big city 250 309 102 67% 29 9%
RWR26 30-50 Male Town/village 100 94 21 78% 44%
RWR27 30-50 Female Small city 90 118 32 73% 43%
RWR28 30-50 Male Small city 54 62 16 74 % 00%
RWR29 30-50 Female Small city 100 107 29 73% 87%
RWR30 30-50 Male Small city 80 118 26 78% 54%
RWR31 30-50 Female Town/village 225 254 75 70% 19 7%
RWR32 30-50 Male Town/village 80 127 52 59% 9 7%
RWR33 18-30 Male Town/village 40 52 16 69% 3 6%
RWR34 50+ Female Town/village 60 92 25 73% 44%
RWR35 30-50 Female Small city 300 306 116 62% 26 8%
RWR36 18-30 Female Town/village 80 70 16 77% 6 9%
RWR37 50+ Male Big city 50 50 15 70% 00%
RWR38 50+ Female Big city 75 96 26 73% 44%
RWR39 50+ Male Big city 45 41 10 76% 00%
RWR40 50+ Female Big city 45 55 15 73% 00%
RWR41 30-50 Female Big city 150 212 65 69% 18 8%
RWR42 30-50 Female Big city 100 155 30 81% 14 9%
RWR43 30-50 Female Big city 80 101 36 64% 55%
RWR44 50+ Female Town/village 100 79 26 67% 00%
RWR45 18-30 Male Big city 175 24 9 69 72% 22 9%
RWR46 18-30 Male Big city 120 141 38 73% 3 2%
RWR 47 30-50 Male Big city 200 205 62 70% 00%
RWR48 30-50 Male Big city 40 43 13 70% 512%
RWR49 30-50 Male Big city 50 56 12 79% 00%
RWR50 18-30 Male Big city 150 218 47 78% 84%
Table 2.4: Average number of garments in Dutch wardrobes according to sampling
Gender Age Locality
Female [1]
Male [2]
18-30 [3]
30-50 [4]
50+ [5]
Town/village [6]
Small city [7]
Large city [8]
Average total 162 99 170 134 75 104 140 149
second-hand 10 412 7 1 49 9
Average unused
garments 47 24 41 39 23 30 37 40
Table 2.5 shows the composition of the average wardrobe within
this sample regarding number of clothes, number of second-hand
clothes, and number of unused clothes per garment category. The
larger garment groups are those of upper wear, such as T-shirts,
shirts and sweaters (rows 11-14). Hats, scarves and shawls, skirts,
dresses, and jumpsuits (rows 4-5 and 15-17) are the garment types
more commonly unused. Second-hand pieces are more common
in accessories (bags and hats, rows 3 and 5) and dresses (row 15).
Table 2.5: Number of garments per category
Total number
of garments
Average per
Total unused
Total second-
Coats and jackets (including rain
jackets and sport jackets) [1] 284 6 55 19% 16 6%
Shoes and boots (pairs) [2] 482 10 117 24% 9 2%
Bags (only bags used as clothing
accessories, excluding shopping bags,
for example) [3]
230 536 16% 20 9%
Scarves and shawls [4] 253 590 36% 14 6%
Hats [5] 166 3 70 42% 14 8%
Gloves (pairs) [6] 108 2 27 25% 3 3%
Suits [7] 54 1 16 30% 2 4%
Trousers [8] 475 10 124 26% 21 4%
Jeans [9] 411 8111 27% 28 7%
Shorts (including sportswear) [10] 273 578 29% 9 3%
Sweaters and cardigans [11] 705 14 156 22% 51 7%
Short-sleeve T-shirts [12] 1282 26 353 28% 75 6%
Long-sleeve T-shirts [13] 586 12 1 87 32% 9 2%
Blouses and shirts [14] 576 12 149 26% 34 6%
Dresses [15] 193 469 36% 17 9%
Jumpsuits [16] 49 1 21 43% 2 4%
Skirts [17] 149 3 53 36% 10 7%
Other [18] 225 579 35% 25 11%
Tot a l 6501 130 1791 28% 359 6%
2.4 Comparison with German
In the context of this research, Lisa Duscha, a Textile and Fashion
Engineering and Management student at the Saxion University of
Applies Sciences in Enschede did a similar wardrobe study in Ger-
many. Although these samples are not representative of the nation-
al population, respondents were selected using the same criteria.
The investigation mainly took place in the west and north-west of
Germany. Some results of this survey are shown in table 2.6.
The wardrobe sizes in the German group are somewhat bigger
than in the Dutch group. Both studies show that women own
more clothes than men, which also applies for the number of
second-hand and unused garments. However, within the German
group there are smaller differences between genders. Male German
respondents owned more garments than Dutch ones (135 to 99).
Columns 3-5 show differences in the number of garments in rela-
tion to age. In the Dutch group, respondents aged 18-30 have the
largest number of garments in their wardrobe. This differs from Ger-
many where respondents aged 30-50 have bigger wardrobes (178
pieces). Although respondents in this group have more garments in
their wardrobe, it is those between 18-30 years old than own the
majority of second-hand garments (21 pieces in average). In both
countries, the number of second-hand garments is the highest in
this age category. Moreover, in both countries respondents living
in large cities own the greatest number of garments. However, the
numbers in the German group are more homogeneous.
In the Dutch group, it was the same sector (young females living in
large cities) that owned larger wardrobes and more second-hand
garments; however, this relation is not found in Germany. Within
this group, second-hand clothes are infrequent in big cities. Last-
ly, in both countries the number of unused garments is related to
wardrobe size. The average percentage of unused garments is 28%
in the Netherlands and 30% in Germany. The garment categories
more commonly unused are similar, as are those including sec-
ond-hand items.
Table 2.6: Average number of garments in German wardrobes according to sampling
Gender Age Locality
Female [1]
Male [2]
18-30 [3]
30-50 [4]
50+ [5]
Town/village [6]
Small city [7]
Large city [8]
Average total 183 135 161 178 138 162 141 1 74
second-hand 19 6 21 11 6 12 19 6
Average unused
garments 58 38 53 60 31 57 33 55
2.5 Conclusions including
qualitative aspects
In addition to the quantitative aspects discussed above, there are
a few qualitative ndings concluded from this research. To begin
with, people with larger wardrobes are not aware of what they own.
Moreover, 28-30% of all garments owned by respondents are not
actively used within one year. These garments could be reused or
recycled to substitute the production of new clothes and materials.
One suggestion for consumers is to limit their wardrobes to usable
numbers, so that they can keep track of what they own and con-
sider it at the moment of buying. On the other hand, motivations to
keep clothes among respondents were not always practical. Some
of the reasons mentioned were their sentimental and nancial val-
ue. Moreover, respondents hoped for a future body change that
would enable them to wear old garments again. For example, one
respondent argued: ‘I keep the garment, although it is not my style
but I got it as a present’. Another respondent claimed that ‘although
the garment is broken and not repairable, I keep it because I have
paid a lot for it’.
Many respondents were not interested in second-hand clothing.
Second-hand is more common among younger women in large cit-
ies, which means there is potential for more reuse in those groups.
Additionally, the number of unused garments is also the highest in
this group, meaning that there are enough garments suitable for ex-
change. Lastly, a promising eld of intervention is that of promoting
the practice of using second-hand clothes in other groups. Actions
may vary from private initiatives (such as developing more sophis-
ticated and easy to use digital platforms for clothing exchange, or
specic laundry services to reduce concerns related to hygiene) to
public policy (such as advertisement campaigns highlighting the
value of reuse). This line of intervention may contribute to use ex-
isting resources more intensively and to partially substitute the
production of new items.
Photo credits: Hans van de Woerd for
Figure 3.7: Sympany’s staff training volunteers to identify rewearable and non-rewearable garments.
Photo credits: Hans van de Woerd for
Photo credits: Hans van de Woerd for
Chapter 3: Disposal
The Netherlands has (and wants to maintain) a leading position in
waste management and recycling (Dubois et al. 2016). Textile waste
management plays a role and therefore the disposal phase has
been researched in more depth than purchase and use. Four rel-
evant publications regarding the end-of-life stage of textiles were
found (FFact 2014; Eureco 2010; Kellermann 2016; Wijnia 2016).
These publications focus on different periods in time and on either
pre- or post-consumer textile waste. This information was comple-
mented with statistical data from CBS (n.d.), the National Ofce of
Statistics, and Rijkswaterstaat (n.d.), Department of Waterways and
Public Works. Moreover, within this project we developed a textile
container analysis (section 3.4) and interviews with local sorting
actors (section 3.2.2), leading to the data presented in this chapter.
3.1 Pre-consumer waste volumes
The issue of pre-consumer waste volumes, obsolete inventory, or
clothes that do not reach the consumer, has been a recurrent topic
of discussion in the fashion community of the Netherlands. These
are nished textile products which are unt for sale at a regular
retail store. A common statement found in literature and lectures is
that 30% of the clothes produced never reach the consumer. Mat-
evosyan (2014) for example, relies upon these numbers, of which
the source is unknown. In response to this issue, MVO Nederland
conducted research in 2016 to obtain a more realistic estimation.
The organization found that from the clothing purchased by the
Dutch retail sector 4,2% was unsold in 2015. If unsold products by
producers and wholesalers are included, the overall percentage is
6.5% (Wijnia 2016). This coincides with estimations from interna-
tional authors, for example, Niinimaki (2011) estimated an unsold
inventory between 5 and 10% for Western Europe countries.
Most produced goods are sold, however many of them with price
reduction across the different steps of the supply chain. MVO Ned-
erland found that 0.9% of items are sold with discount by man-
ufacturers, while at wholesalers discounted products are 12.4 %,
and at retailers 31 %. Therefore, the “30% myth” may be due to a
confusion of discounted items with unsold ones.
1.4% unsold
1.1% unsold
4.2% unsold
Total unsold
Hold in
Figure 3.1: Volumes owing through the Dutch apparel network in 2015 estimated by Wijna
on the basis of the Euromonitor's retail volume. Source: Wijna, 2016
The above analysis, which does not include returns, is illustrated in
gure 3.1. The qualitative analysis of MVO Nederland’s research in-
dicates that clothing companies sell their unsold inventory to sort-
ing companies under strict regulations, to ensure that the items
do not enter the ‘black’ market. Luxury brands often discard their
garments for destruction to maintain their brand’s name. Chari-
ty organization Sympany alone received in 2015 a total amount of
100,000 pieces of apparel and shoes from apparel brands and re-
tailers (Wijnia, 2016).
3.2 Post-consumer textile waste
3.2.1 Volumes of textile waste
Post-consumer textile waste includes used products that have
been discarded by the consumer after use (e.g. used clothing, foot-
wear, accessories, home textiles, and other household soft goods,
disposed within general household waste or collected separate-
ly). Available data on post-consumer textile waste indicates that
volumes have increased during the period discussed. CBS and Ri-
jkswaterstaat provide data on separately collected textiles (CBS)
and textiles found in household waste (Rijkswaterstaat). These vol-
umes are presented in gure 3.2. We note that recent volumes of
separately collected textiles should be higher than CBS estima-
tions. See sections 3.2.2 and 3.3 for other sources.
3.2.2 Local collecting and sorting organizations
In the context of this research project, we invited all collecting
and sorting actors operating in the Netherlands for an interview.
However, only three among the main organizations agreed to par-
ticipate. Together they employ around 330 people (NL) and collect
around half of all separately collected textiles in the Netherlands,
considering Ffact (2014) estimations for 2012. The ndings of these
interviews have been anonymized and are presented below.
The volume of post-consumer textiles collected by our interview-
ees has grown during the last years. Together they collected 46kton
in 2013, 48.2kton in 2014, 54.4kton in 2015 and 53kton in 2016. Tak-
ing the 90kton of separately collected textile calculated for 2012 by
Ffact (2014) as a reference, we estimate a total volume of approx-
imately 92kton collected in 2013, 96kton in 2014, 109kton in 2015,
and 107kton in 2016. These gures are considerable higher than
CBS’s estimates (see g 3.2). However, these volumes may differ
according to changes in the actors operating in the sector. Our in-
terviewees may now collect a different portion of the total volume
when compared to 2012.
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 20 06 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013** 2014** 2015**
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 20 06 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013** 2014** 2015**
Separately collected In HHWSeparately collected In HHW
Figure 3.2: Total textile waste volume in the Netherlands (kton). Sources: CBS &
Rijkswaterstaat. ** provisional.
A main issue discussed by interviewees is the economic sustaina-
bility of their organizations, which has been challenged by a lower
resell value of the items collected during the last decade. They
identify a lower quality in the clothing in circulation, which tend to
age faster. Moreover, in their eyes the economic crisis affected the
disposal behaviour of consumers; clothes were worn longer before
being disposed. Lastly, in 2009 new regulations were introduced
in order to separate more textile waste from regular household
waste. These regulations oblige collectors to take all textile waste
with no selection of quality at the source. As a result, they now re-
ceive more items that are not suitable for reuse, such as worn-out
clothes, underwear, and non-clothing textiles.
These issues have inuenced the economic value of the items
collected during the last decade, with bigger volumes sorted to
non-rewearable grades. One respondent indicated that 10 years
ago about 80% of the collected items were graded as rewearable,
while today this is about 55%. For another sorting actor, rewearable
grades comprised 50-60% of their offer before the economic crisis,
while they are now close to 30%.
Charities appear to collect more rewearable quality than other ac-
tors. The percentage of actual clothing is slightly higher for them as
well; charities reported about 80% and other collecting companies
about 65%. This might be due to the association people have with
these organizations. In any case, they estimate a decrease in the
amount of rewearable clothing within textile waste between 20
and 30% over the past ten years.
Rewearable grades are sorted according to quality (A, B, C) and
garment type (e.g. men’s jeans), based on the specic demand of
clients. These grades vary according to company and change over
time depending on clients’ preferences and needs. The main desti-
nations for Dutch rewearable grades are Africa and Eastern Europe.
Collectors pay municipalities € 0.10-0.50 per kilo collected, al-
though some pay more to place their containers at the best loca-
tions. Other collecting costs, including transportation and manpow-
er, are about € 0.10-0.18 per kilo. They indicated that they currently
get between € 0.50 to € 4.50 per kilo for rewearable grades. Shoes
have a value between € 0.50 and € 3.50. The value of non-reweara-
ble grades is generally € 0- 0.22 per kilo with the exception of wool
(€ 0.60-1.20 per kilo). Clients downcycling post-consumer textiles
into cleaning cloth pay them 0.10-0.25 per kilo. For the lowest
quality recyclable grades, sorters have to pay € 0.05-0.07 to get it
processed. None of the collected textiles goes into landll; this is
taken up in the contract with local as well as international clients.
For material not suitable for the categories described above, sort-
ers pay € 0.09-0.13 for incineration.
Some sorters import post-consumer textiles because Dutch re-
wearable grades are in high international demand, but good quality
rewearables are often cheaper abroad. One respondent indicated
a cost of € 0.20-0.40 per kilo for imported post-consumer textiles.
The following countries were mentioned: Italy, France, Austria and
Our interviewees mentioned their preference for above-the-ground
containers and manual pick up. They argue that people tend to
part more easily from their emotional items in this way. Moreo-
ver, above-the-ground containers tend to include less non-textile
waste than underground ones, and pollution or damage resulting
from underground collection is avoided.
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013** 2014**
Items discarded It ems bought (GFK) Retail Volume (Eur omonitor)
Figure 3.3: Average number of clothing items purchased and discarded per capita. Source:
CBS, Rijkswaterstaat, container analysis, Euromonitor, GFK
3.2.3 Post-consumer clothing and footwear waste
On the basis of our interviews with sorting actors and previous
studies of textiles included in general household waste by Eure-
co and Rijkswateerstaat, we estimate that around 80% of all post
consumer textiles are clothing and footwear, 20% accounting for
home textiles and other materials. Using the average weight per
item from our container analysis (see section 3.4), we calculate
items of clothing and footwear in textile waste. This is a rough esti-
mation since post-consumer textiles may vary greatly according to
seasons and region, among other factors. The resulting estimated
gures are roughly comparable with items reported by Euromonitor
and GFK (retail volume and consumer purchases respectively) in
terms of product types included.
Figure 3.3 shows the average number of items purchased and dis-
carded (annually per capita), we nd GfK’s data more consistent
with waste volumes than Euromonitor’s. The higher numbers for
purchases in relation to waste are in line with other European
studies (see section 3.5.), which award it to items stored at home
(“national wardrobe”).
3.3 Textile waste destinations
This section discusses the destiny of Dutch textile waste. Most of
the data is based on 2012 gures (Ffact, 2014, see g 3.4 for an
overview). However, the kind of waste collected and its use can
vary to a great extent over time based on changes on regulation,
consumer awareness, second-hand or recycled material demand
for specic products, and other factors. Our interviews with Dutch
collectors and sorters aimed at estimating updated gures. Unfor-
tunately, and despite the endorsement received from the branch
organization VHT, we could not gather enough information to up-
date these gures. Some collecting and sorting actors did not react
to our interview invitation and others could not provide accurate
3.3.1 Textile volume incinerated
Disposal of waste via landll is banned in the Netherlands. There-
fore all textile waste that cannot be sorted to other destinations is
incinerated for energy recovery. The total amount of textile waste
incinerated includes material disposed via household waste and
what is collected separately but considered not suitable for reuse
or recycling. Ffact estimated that in 2012 145kton of textiles were
found in regular household waste and thus incinerated (FFact 2014,
p.8). The same report indicates that in 2012, about 7% of sorted
textiles could not be re-used or recycled and was therefore incin-
erated (FFact 2014, p.14). During our interviews, higher gures were
mentioned (e.g. 10% for 2015). Therefore, we estimate that the total
volume of textiles currently incinerated is slightly higher than that
of textiles disposed in general waste (see g 3.4 for estimates in
Textiles Separately
Textiles in general
household waste
Dutch textiles
Sorted locally
waste recycled
or incinerated
Procesed Locally Exports
Figure 3.4: Destiny of textile waste in 2012 according to Ffact, 2014 (Kton).
From a household waste analysis carried out in 2009, Eureco (2010)
found that 65% of the textile found in regular waste was suitable
for reuse or recycling. If disposed properly, these textiles could
have been sorted as follows: 35% clothing re-use, 10% linen reuse,
20% recycling and 36% not suitable for product reuse or recycling.
Applying these percentages to 2009 Rijkswaterstaat’s volumes, we
conclude that collecting all 2009 post-consumer waste separately
would have prevented the incineration of 95kton of textiles suita-
ble for reuse and recycling that year. Moreover, 50kton could have
been used for clothing reuse, 14kton for linen reuse and 28kton for
2012 2013 2014
Rewearable Recyclable Not rewear able or recycl able Shoes
Figure 3.5: Potential destination of textiles found in household waste in kton (currently
incinerated). Source: Rijkswaterstaat.
From 2012 onwards, the annual household waste component study
assigned to Eureco by Rijkswaterstaat included subcomponents to
the textile category. These subcomponents are not as specic as
their 2010 report, but they give a more recent impression of the
developments in household waste content. See g 3.5 for the vol-
umes during 2012-2014 calculated on the basis of Rijkswaterstaat/
Eureco percentages. These textiles are currently incinerated, but
they could follow the destinations suggested in the gure if they
were separately disposed of and collected.
3.3.2 Textile sorted
Textile sorted in the Netherlands includes material collected locally
and textile imports (see g. 3.6). According to sorting actors, this
is because Dutch post-consumer textiles are in high international
demand, but used clothing of good quality is often cheaper when
imported, including transport costs. Local collectors need to pay
municipalities and maintain the infrastructure and human resourc-
es needed for their activity, and this may result in higher costs
than buying foreign textiles already collected and sorted elsewhere
(see section 3.2.2). Moreover, not all textile collected in the Neth-
erlands is sorted locally; some sorting actors have foreign clients
that buy ‘original’ (unsorted or roughly sorted post-consumer tex-
tiles, in which any non-textile items have been removed). This may
be more convenient for them, since manual labour is costly in the
Figure 3.6: Collection, import and processing of post-consumer textiles (kton) in 2012.
Source: (FFact 2014)
According to Ffact (2014), 23kton were exported ‘original’ in 2012.
From the remaining 67kton collected, 5.2kton were non-textile ma-
terials and the other 61.6kton were sorted into the reuse, recycling
and incineration grades (see g. 3.4).
3.3.3 Textile reused locally
Post-consumer clothing suitable for reuse was 56% of the textiles
sorted in the Netherlands in 2012 (34.9/61.6kton). 6.6kton of these
were sent to Dutch second hand shops (10.6 % of the locally-sort-
ed volume). The rest, 28.3kton, was exported for reuse in different
quality categories (Ffact 2014).
The percentage of collected textiles reused differs per sorter, as
they serve different clients. Actors sort per product category, which
may vary over time as their clients or demand changes. In the Neth-
erlands, there is one textile sorter that owns its own second-hand
shops, this actor has a higher percentage of their sorted product
going into re-use locally; approximately 30%. For most of the sort-
ers this in not a protable pathway, and therefore the amounts
locally reused are smaller. Note that we are not including clothing
reuse directly exchanged from one consumer to another or via col-
lection at second-hand shops in this report.
3.3.4 Textile recycled locally
37% of the sorted textiles in the Netherlands (22.6kton) were recy-
cled in 2012. 12.8kton of these were processed locally to become
either cleaning cloth (9.9kton) or recycled bres (2.9kton) (FFact
2014). The rest were exported for recycling abroad. Sorters sell their
products to each other for further sorting and selling, tting to their
clientele or expertise.
3.3.5 Textile volume exported
The total amount of exported post-consumer textiles in 2012 was
109kton; however, this includes post-consumer textiles that were
previously imported for sorting purposes.
From the 90kton textiles collected in the Netherlands in 2012,
23kton (25.5%) was exported after a rst sorting round, to be pro-
cessed by foreign sorters. During a more selective sorting process,
more material was selected for export: 41.6kton, adding up to a
total of 64.6kton (71.6%) exported (FFact 2014).
Based on consultation with actors in the sorting chain, Ffact cal-
culates the following export volumes and categories after selec-
tive sorting: 28.3kton rewearable (68%); 3.3kton recyclable for e.g.
cleaning cloth (7,9%) and 9.8kton other recyclable grades (23,7%).
3.4 Textile Container Analysis
The issue of growing textile waste has received a lot of attention
in recent years. However, to our knowledge the actual composition
of the post-consumer textile mountain in the Netherlands has not
been analysed in detail yet. This information is particularly rele-
vant to develop strategies to improve waste streams and enable
realistic solutions to promote reuse and recycling. With this aim in
mind, we analysed the content of textile waste containers in detail,
the results of this analysis are presented below. Although this data
cannot be considered representative of the whole Dutch textile
waste, it does offer a rst indication of its composition. We encour-
age other actors to reproduce this analysis using similar methods
to enlarge the sample. Finally, we note that this analysis does not
include those textiles being disposed of by other means such as
household waste, bulky waste and second-hand shops.
3.4.1 Methodology and general results
The textile container analysis took place on the 12th of April 2017
at one of the sorting plants of the charity organization Sympany. A
number of 13 volunteering sorters (mostly fashion and textiles stu-
dents) processed 200kg of collected textiles in street containers
from the Veluwe area in 5 hours. The results were processed by
Gunilla Piltz, a fashion and textiles student at Saxion, as part of her
graduation project.
Since 2009, textile collectors are required to receive all kinds of
textiles by municipalities including broken garments, shoes, soft
toys, accessories and household textiles such as towels. 9kg (37
items) including soft toys, belts, bags and shoes, were not sorted in
detail. Each pair of gloves, socks and shoes was considered a sin-
gle item. The sorters executed the analysis by working in pairs, one
member specifying the type of product and the other one lling in
the prepared excel sheets according to the variables discussed in
this section.
Rewearables: 464 items
Non-re wearables: 229 items
Actually rewearable: 145 i tems
Other items: 37 items
Figure 3.8: Outcomes of the container analysis in Items
Rewearables: 107 kg
Non-r ewearabl es: 57 kg
Actually Rewearable: 36 kg
Other Items: 9 kg
Figure 3.9: Outcomes of the container analysis in volume
Firstly, textiles are divided into two categories: re-wearable and
non-rewearable. The division is based on the sorter’s criteria (see
g. 3.7). Volunteers are trained by an experienced employee, who
points out overall sorting principles such as: paying attention to
areas were garments may be worn out (e.g. collar, arm pits and
crotch). Underwear, non-garment textiles and socks are
considered non-rewearable, with some exceptions (such as
children socks and stockings). Children’s clothes deserve
special treatment as the second-hand market is larger and
sorters can be more flexible with the condition of garments.
The 200 kilograms sorted are 838 items, resulting in an
average weight of approximately 240 grams per item. 107kg of
these (464 items) are rewearable. This accounts for 55.4% of the
total number of items sorted.
The other 93kg (374 items) are non-rewearable; accounting for
44.6% of the items. From those items considered non-
rewearable by the sorter (usually sold for recycling), volun-
teers identify that 145 items are re-wearable according to their
own criteria. These criteria are based on the personal perception
of the item being sellable in a second hand shop or in condition to
be bought by volunteers. As a result, 17.3% of the total items are
considered “actually rewearable (see Figures 3.8-3.9). Moreover
11 new items (including packaging and/or with the label attached)
were found.
3.4.2 Product types
The rst grade of the sorting process is garment group, w ith the
following results:
Women: 49.2%
Men: 9.6%
Children: 17,9 %
Unisex: 6.1%
Other textiles: 14.1%
Unnamed: 2.7%
Figure 3.10: Garment groups in non-rewearables
1% 0%
Women: 59.9%
Men: 12.5%
Children: 26.1 %
Unisex: 1.3%
Other textiles: 0.2%
Figure 3.11: Garment groups in rewearables
Figures 3.10 and 3.11 display the percentages of garment types in
non-rewearables and rewearables. When the total volume of sorted
textiles is considered, the results are the following: Womenswear
55.1%, Childrenswear 22.1%, Menswear 11.2%, other textiles 6.6%,
unisex clothing 3.5%, unnamed 1.2%.
Moreover, the type of garment is registered, sorted according to
the categories in g. 3.12. The following percentages and numbers
of rewearable/non-rewearable items are found: 24.5% (62 non-re-
wearable/143 rewearable) T-Shirts/Tank Tops, 18.5% trousers (58
non-rewearable/97 rewearable), 13% underwear including socks
(75 non-rewearable/34 rewearable), 12.8% (57 non-rewearable/50
rewearable) sweater/cardigans, 30% other.
Figure 3.12: Garment types in Items
3.4.3 Materials
Items are also analysed in terms of material in order to provide rel-
evant insights for recycling processes. 21.2% of the items are made
of more than one material, regardless of the bre composition.
This category includes items such as jackets with lining, trousers
with patches, etc. which would need to be taken apart for recy-
cling. Moreover, around half of the items include hardware such as
buckles, zippers and buttons. 56.3% of the items have no hardware,
35.9% have light hardware, and 6.3% heavy hardware.
Figure 3.13: Finishing in Items
Finishing is also accounted for (see Figure 3.13). 77.9% of the to-
tal items (653 items) does not include specic nishing. The most
common nishes are embroidery (9.4%, with 20 items non-re-
wearable and 59 rewearables), embellishment (4.8%, including
6 non-rewearable items and 34 rewearable) and prints (3.9%, 32
items non-rewearable and 1 rewearable).
The kind of textiles used in the products includes knitted (58.1%),
woven (35.1%) and non-woven (0.4%) materials; 6.4% of the items
were a combination of these materials. 22% of the items are mul-
ti-coloured, followed by 15.6% blue, 13.6% black and 11.8% white
items (see gure 3.14).
Figure 3.14: Colours in Items
3.4.4 Fibre composition
Material blend s: 37,3% (316 items)
Pure materials: 31,9% (264 items)
Label missing: 30,8% (255 items + 3 half)
Figure 3.15: Materials
As part of the sorting process, items are classied according to
their bre composition. 30.4% of the items (255) miss the label and
therefore cannot be classied. 264 items (31.9%) are made from
pure materials and 312 items (37.3%) from material blends (see g.
3.15). Cotton is the most common bre for pure materials (46.3%
of the labelled items = 78 non-rewearables and 114 rewearables).
Polyester is in the second place, with 5.6% of the labelled garments
(20 non-rewearables and 27 rewearables). Other pure materials
are Viscose, Wool, Acrylic, Nylon and Linen with small percentages
(Figure 3.16).
Figure 3.16: Pure Materials
Over 100 different blends are found among the 838 items sorted.
The most common blends are:
Cotton 95% / 5% Spandex (39= 18 non-rewearables + 21 re-
Cotton 98% / Spandex 2% (23= 6 non-rewearables + 17 rewear-
Cotton 97% / Spandex 3% (10= 3 non-rewearables + 7 rewear-
Cotton 80% / Nylon 15%/ Spandex 5% (5 non-rewearables)
Polyester 65% / Cotton 35% (11= 5 non-rewearables + 6 rewear-
Viscose 95% / Spandex 5% (12= 7 non-rewearables + 5 rewear-
20.5% of the total labelled items are made of blends with a
percentage over 80% Cotton and only 1.5% is 95% (or more)
3.4.5 Conclusions
Based on the sorting criteria of Sympany, which is inuenced by the
international second hand market, we found that around half of the
sorted items were of rewearable quality. This coincides with gener-
al Sympany averages. However, the volunteers found these criteria
too strict, and therefore the category “actually rewearable” was
introduced within initially non-rewearable items. The garments in
this category (which accounted for 17% of the total items and vol-
ume) were considered suitable for reuse by volunteers, meaning
that they would sell them or buy them in the local second hand
market. Sympany’s approach to children’s clothes was more ex-
ible, given that this grade is in higher international demand. From
these observations and considering that sorters grade the collected
items on the basis of demand, we conclude that there are opportu-
nities for more clothing reuse. There are enough clothes collected
that are still in good enough condition to be worn again; however,
the demand for second-hand items is lower than the offer. In line
with our conclusions from the wardrobe study (see Chapter 2), we
identify opportunities to encourage clothing reuse, in this case ap-
plying for both the national and the international context.
More than half of the items sorted were women clothes, with men
garments, unisex garments, children garments, and other textiles
accounting for the other half. This is in line with our wardrobe
study, which pointed out that women’s wardrobes were 60% bigger
than men’s in the sample group. The fact that the percentage of
women’s clothes was even higher among rewearables may indicate
that they dispose of their items more easily than men. Moreover,
they may be more inclined to dispose of their used items though
separate collection than men.
The material analysis in this study points out that extensive pro-
cesses are needed before post-consumer textiles can be recycled.
21.2% of the items sorted were made of more than one material
(such as jackets with lining, trousers with patches, etc.). More-
over, around half of the items included hardware such as buck-
les, zippers and buttons. Finally, 22.1% included nishings such as
embroidery or heavy printing, which could contaminate recyclable
material if not taken apart. This implies that intense manpower is
needed to process post-consumer textiles before recycling. De-
signing clothes with recycling processes in mind (e.g. design for
disassembly) would reduce human resources costs and result in
more material suitable for recovery. Moreover, the development of
technologies to assist the disassembly process could reduce costs
as well.
Blue, black, and white are common colours and therefore more
suitable for mechanical recycling with no dying. However, mul-
ti-coloured items accounted for 22% of the total, challenging the
practice of bre-to-bre recycling with no chemical treatment.
Pure cotton textiles accounted for 46.3% of the labelled items,
while 20.5% were blends with a percentage over 80% cotton. This
bre is the most common; therefore actions to recycle this mate-
rial may result in more post-consumer textiles recovered. In any
case, these conclusions are based on the characteristics of the
sample analyzed. Studies of other (bigger) samples are needed in
order to consider ndings representative.
3.5 International comparison of
post-consumer textile volumes and
International comparisons of waste volumes are complex, since
the available information is scattered and based on disparate data
sources and methodologies, while language barriers play a negative
role in the circulation of publications. However, in this section we
intend a simple comparison of previously published estimates in
the region. Figure 3.17 shows textile waste volumes per capita, in-
cluding clothing, accessories and home textiles, calculated on the
basis of previously published data. Dutch gures are provided by
CBS and Rijkswaterstaat. For a more detailed description of Dutch
waste volumes and destinations, see sections 3.2 and 3.3. The oth-
er countries are discussed briey below.
Figure 3.17: International comparison of textile waste volumes (kg per capita) Sources: NL
(Rijkswaterstaat n.d.; CBS n.d.), UK (Morley et al. 2009; Morley et al. 2006), DK (Palm et al.
2014), DE (BVSE 2015), FR (EcoTLC 2012).
We note that Dutch volumes of separately collected textiles in the
gure (estimated by CBS) should be higher during the last years.
Ffact (2014) estimated 90kton (5.4kg per capita) for 2012 and we
estimate 96kton (5.7kg per capita) for 2014 (see section 3.2.2). The
total volume should be higher as well, since household waste is
accounted for separately. In any case, the Netherlands is collect-
ing less than half of all post-consumer textiles produced. That is a
reality for all the other countries illustrated in the gure with the
exception of Germany. However, estimations of the total volume
vary per country and publication. The Netherlands and UK include
accounts of textiles in household waste while Germany, France,
and Denmark estimate general volumes on the basis of sales using
different methods. This fact impedes comparisons in the percent-
age of textiles collected. Lastly, while volume of post-consumer
textiles discarded per capita should correspond to some extent to
retail volume per capita reported by Euromonitor in these countries
(see g 1.2), this is not always the case. In sum, a lot more research
is needed, not only in the Netherlands but also in the other coun-
tries in the region, in order to provide accurate and comparable
3.5.1 United Kingdom
Resale in UK
Recycling UK
Wiper grade UK
Export reuse
Export for recycling
Export wiper grade
Figures 3.18: Destination of collected textile in the UK, 2005 (kton) Source: (Morley et al.
2006; Morley et al. 2009).
Resale in UK
Recycling UK
Wiper grade UK
Export reuse
Export for recycling
Export wiper grade
Figures 3.19: Destination of collected textile in the UK, 2008 (kton) Source: (Morley et al.
2006; Morley et al. 2009).
Textile waste seems a dramatic problem in the UK, the country
showing the highest rates in the region. Maybe for that reason, the
issue has been covered in more detail than in other countries, and
more data and literature are available. Studies done by DEFRA (De-
partment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), include textile
volumes found within municipal solid waste for the years 2003,
2007, 2008 and 2009. The UK data in gure 3.17 is based on these
publications (Morley et al. 2006; Morley et al. 2009). During that
period, the total volumes of discarded textiles grew by 13%. The
amount of separately collected textiles increased by 39%, while
the volumes found in municipal solid waste decreased. When com-
pared to the other countries, the total volume of post-consumer
textiles in the UK is much higher; however, retail volume differenc-
es illustrated in g 1.2 are not as dramatic.
According to Morley et al. (2009), UK collected textiles are mostly
exported for reuse (see gs. 3.18-3.19). This sector grew between
2005 and 2008 as did resale within the UK, while the volume of
textiles recycled locally decreased during that period.
Direct reuse
In general
Consumption of
new textiles
Figure 3.20: Destination of post-consumer textiles in the UK in 2007 (kton).
Source:(Morley et al. 2009)
More recent information is provided by WRAP (the local Waste and
Resources Action Programme), estimating that approximately 70kg
of textiles per UK household were discarded in 2012 (WRAP 2012).
These approximately 30kg per person are in line with the growing
amounts of new clothing items per capita in the country.
Figure 3.20 gives an overview of textile pathways and volumes in
the UK in 2007. We note that the gure explains a difference in tex-
tile volumes consumed and discarded by 310kton stored at home
and not in use (“national wardrobe”).
3.5.2 Denmark
Palm et al. (2014) present a gure (g 3.21) summarizing the ow
and destination of textiles in 2010 based on updated numbers from
Tojo et al. (2012) and Watson et al. (2014). When comparing Dutch
and Danish total volumes of post-consumer textiles per capita for
that year, we note that they correspond to differences in retail vol-
ume accounted by Euromonitor (gure 1.2).
Supply of new
Not separately
Reuse and
Bulky and
muncipal waste
and material loss
Figure 3.21: Destination of post-consumer textiles in Denmark in 2010 (kton). Source
(Palm et al. 2014). See original source for similar analysis in other Nordic countries.
3.5.3 Germany
According to the German
Bundesverband Sekundärrohstoffe und
(BVSE 2015), Germany produced 1.126kton of textile
waste in 2007, of which 750kton were collected for reuse and re-
cycling. The total volume per capita was around 13kg, similar to the
Dutch volume. In 2013, the total volume escalated to 1.347kton, of
which 1.011kton were collected for reuse and recycling. Therefore
the collection of textile waste improved, growing from 60% to 74%
of the total.
Cleaning cloths
Figure 3.22: Destination of separately collected textiles in Germany 2007 (kton). Source:
(BVSE 2015)
Cleaning cloths
Figure 3.23: Destination of separately collected textiles in Germany 2013 (kton). Source:
(BVSE 2015)
The destinations of German textile waste for the years 2007 and
2013 are presented in gures 3.22 and 3.23. The volume of textiles
sold for reuse grew to a great extent (around 70%) as did textiles
sold for cleaning cloth, while the volume of waste resulting from
the sorting process diminished.
Figure 3.24: Destination of post-consumer textiles in Germany 2013 (kton). Source: (BVSE
3.5.4 France
An Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR) legislation was im-
plemented in 2006 in France for clothing, linen and footwear (CLF)
(EcoTLC 2016). The legislation was ratied in 2008, aiming at 100%
reuse and recycling of used CLF. In 2016, Eco TLC represented more
than 94% of the industry. In 2009 the organization collected 1.9 kg
of used CLF per French inhabitant, in 2013 this volume had grown
to 2.4 kg and in 2016 reached 3.2 kg. The goal is to reach 4.6 kg per
person by 2019 to be reused, recycled or used for energy recovery.
Textiles collected by this programme in 2016 were reused (59.4%),
recycled (31.8% including 22% unravelling and 9.5% cleaning cloth)
or used for energy recovery (8.5%), with a small portion that could
not be recovered (0.3%). They included linen (6.9%), footwear
(10.8%) and clothing (82.3%). EcoTLC estimates the current annual
French volume of used TLC at 639.000 tones, or 9.2 kg per capita
(EcoTLC 2012b). However, these estimations are based on retail vol-
ume during 2011, rather than current accounts of post-consumer
Figure 3.25: Destination of post-consumer textiles in France 2016 (kton). Source: (EcoTLC
3.5.6 Conclusions
Judging by the international publications reviewed in this section,
growing post-consumer textile volumes seem to be problematic in
all countries in the region. They are all implementing programmes
to collect more textiles separately and make the best use of them.
Available historical data within countries indicates that the results
of these programmes have been positive and collected volumes
have increased through time. However, more research is needed
to understand the effect of different systems across countries and
the nal destinations of separately collected textiles.
For example, in this report we could not compare the percentage
collected across countries because the total volume of post-con-
sumer textile in some of them is uncertain. In those cases, the
volume of separately collected textiles may have increased side
by side with total textile volumes. In sum, similar research meth-
ods should be used across nations in order to understand the
advantages and disadvantages of different collection methods,
programmes, and policies. This knowledge would enable useful in-
ternational comparisons so that we can learn from each other and
reach common goals.
Moreover, the effect of post-consumer textiles in their different
destinations is yet to be determined. It is still unknown how much
of the textiles exported for reuse are actually reused, and what is
their effect in the country receiving them. The environmental im-
pacts of different downcycling, recycling and upcycling practices
should also be analysed in more detail. One recommendation is to
assess the comparative environmental advantages of these prac-
tices in relation to traditional resource use (employing tools such
as life-cycle analysis) while developing recycling solutions.
Chapter 4: Conclusions
4.1 Summary of the research ndings
for the general public
During this project we measured the size of the Dutch clothing
mountain. We are all aware that more and more clothing and tex-
tiles are circulating in the Netherlands. We buy more clothes, keep
more clothes at home, and throw away more clothes. However, it
was not easy to nd accurate information about this issue before
we started this project.
In this research we discovered a Dutch consumer buys approxi-
mately 46 new clothes items annually. The average price of each
item is around 16 euro. In any case, we buy less than consumers
in other countries in the region such as Germany, Denmark and
the United Kingdom. We keep approximately 173 pieces of clothing
in our personal wardrobe, of which 50 have not been worn in the
last year and 7 are second-hand. Women, young adults and people
living in bigger cities have more clothes than men, older adults
and people living in towns and villages. 3 garments per person are
discarded in the supply chain (before arriving to consumers) annu-
ally. Each Dutch inhabitant throws away approximately 40 clothes
per year, 24 of these clothes are thrown away in general household
waste and they are therefore incinerated. 5 are collected sepa-
rately but they are not suitable for reuse, so they can be recycled,
2 are rewearable according to consumers, but not by international
second-hand standards; nally, 9 of these garments are suitable
for the international second-hand market.
Based on these and other facts, we provide recommendations to
reduce the size of the Dutch clothing mountain for consumers,
companies, designers, fashion schools, textile collectors and sort-
ers, municipalities, and public policy. Moreover, we propose direc-
tions for further research.
Nederlands samenvaing
In dit onderzoeksproject hebben we het volume van de Nederland-
se kledingberg gemeten. De bewustwording dat meer en meer kle-
ding en textiel gebruikt wordt in Nederland groeit. We kopen meer
kleding, bewaren meer kleding in huis en gooien meer kleding weg.
Ondanks deze bewustwording was het niet makkelijk om infor-
matie te vinden voor aanvang van deze studie.
Uit dit onderzoek is gekomen dat de Nederlandse consument gemi-
ddeld 46 nieuwe kledingstukken per jaar koopt. De gemiddelde pri-
js van een kledingstuk is 16 euro. Nederlanders consumeren mind-
er kleding vergeleken met consumenten uit omringende Europese
landen, zoals Duitsland, Denemarken en Engeland. Onze garderobe
bestaat gemiddeld uit 173 kledingstukken, waarvan we er ongeveer
50 niet gedragen hebben in het afgelopen jaar, en gemiddeld zeven
items zijn tweedehands. Vrouwen, jongvolwassenen en mensen uit
de grote steden hebben meer kleding dan mannen, ouderen en
mensen uit dorpen. 3 kledingstukken per jaar worden afgeschreven
voor het de consument bereikt. Elke Nederlander gooit jaarlijks 40
kledingstukken weg. 24 stuks gaan bij het huishoudelijk afval en
worden daarmee verbrand. De overige 16 stuks worden ingezam-
eld, waarvan 5 stuks niet geschikt zijn vor hergebruik, deze worden
gerecycled. 2 stuks zijn herdraagbaar volgens de consument maar
voldoen niet aan de internationale tweedehands standaarden; en
tot slot zijn 9 van deze kledingstukken geschikt voor hergebruik.
Op basis van deze en andere feiten doen wij aanbevelingen hoe
de grootte van de Nederlandse kledingberg te verminderen. Deze
zijn gericht op consumenten, bedrijven, ontwerpers, modeopleidin-
gen, textielinzamelaars en sorteerders, gemeenten en overheidsbe-
leid. Bovendien geven we veelbelovende richtingen aan voor nader
4.2 Recommendations to reduce
Dutch textile waste
One of the aims of this project is to highlight the importance of
growing clothing volumes. Much of the research and many of the
actions in sustainable fashion and textiles have focused exclusive-
ly on reducing environmental impact per product, for example by
promoting the use of organic or recycled materials. Although this
line of action is certainly valuable and needed, it should be com-
plemented with solutions to maintain or reduce the quantity of
clothing made and discarded. Producing a garment with zero envi-
ronmental impact seems impossible; therefore, clothing volumes
maer. We recommend consumers, companies, researchers and
policy makers alike to take this into account.
Another objective is to contribute to an increasing awareness of
the clothing volumes in circulation and the effect this may have on
the environment. During this research we perceived that although
all actors seem sensitive to this issue, it is uncommon to place it
at the core of daily decisions. Despite the fact that popular envi-
ronmental frameworks nowadays integrate environmental and eco-
nomic aspects as equally important, these tend to conict in daily
practice, economic issues taking the upper hand. Examples include
consumers that do not want to miss the opportunity to buy a lot
of clothes at sales; retailers pushing for lower costs from their
suppliers with no interest in environmental or social implications;
municipalities charging charities per kilo of separately collected
textiles; and post-consumer textile sorters selling at the best price
possible, with no interest in the impact of their grades at the nal
destination. Therefore, a straightforward and general recommenda-
tion for those willing to make a change is to place environmental
issues at the core of daily decisions in order to counterbalance
economic aspects.
Below we make recommendations to the different actors in-
On the basis of our wardrobe studies, we recommend consum-
ers to visualize their wardrobe as a system that needs manage-
ment and maintenance. Many of our respondents were not aware
of what they had, and therefore did not buy new clothes with that
in mind. Managing the content of the wardrobe more efciently
may contribute to making the best out of what is already there. For
instance, trying out unexpected combinations can promote out-
t variety and understanding patterns of use may help in buying
clothes that are actually going to be used. Being aware that one
third of the wardrobe content is not in active use may question
the need to buy so many new clothes every year. Moreover, unused
volumes that are in good condition should be seen as a resource
for exchange and reuse in order to have variety over time with no
environmental impact.
If used textiles cannot be exchanged within the close network, they
should always be allocated to separate collection, no matter the
kind of textile or its condition. More than half of household textiles
possibly suitable for reuse or recycling are still disposed of via gen-
eral waste and are therefore incinerated. Collectors recommend
placing textiles in closed plastic bags to avoid contamination by
other materials often found in textile containers. Moreover, product
labels should remain attached so that the material composition of
post-consumer textiles remains clear.
In the same line, we see business opportunities for companies
wanting to make a change in the sector. Offering wardrobe apps
or other wardrobe managing tools may enable consumers to ex-
perience a more structured, time saving, cost saving and satisfying
handling of clothes and it may prevent overconsumption. These
systems could also suggest opportunities for clothing exchange via
social networks, for example. Curated second-hand boutiques and
specialized laundry services may contribute to reducing reluctance
to reuse. Fashion retailers may incorporate take-back systems and
second-hand sections within their stores. This may benet the im-
age of their brands in terms of durability, and awareness of the
company buyers and designers on critical points to improve prod-
uct quality. Moreover, offering reused products may provide an ex-
tra source of revenue and an additional group of potential clients
arriving to shops.
Take-back systems may confront companies and designers with
nding solutions to the end-of-life of their own products, and
therefore promote a more responsible product design practice. Our
container analysis pointed out that a lot of work is needed in the
removal of buttons, zippers, linings etc. to prepare garments for re-
cycling. Awareness of the process of disassembly may contribute to
better product design. Additionally, complex multi-bre blends are
a barrier for many existing and upcoming recycling technologies.
Designing with end-of-life in mind should prioritise recyclable fab-
rics and bres. Moreover, there are promising lines of intervention
at a material level, for example in the development of self-healing
textiles or recycled textiles and the technologies needed to pro-
duce them. While research in self-healing materials is still in its
infancy, textile recycling is at a more advanced level and has tan-
gible opportunities to scale up. In any case, creative research on
new recycled materials or new recycling processes is needed to
help overcome challenges such as feedstock quality and assurance
(in terms of consistency in bre and colour). The development of
recycled bres and fabrics with increased quality, hand feel, and
technical capacity is another promising line of action. Designers
wanting to enable clothing reuse may offer versatile garments suit-
able for different body types, using durable materials. Lastly, we
highlight the importance of grounding creative projects for a better
apparel sector on actual facts. Much of the creative design work in
sustainable fashion is based on assumptions of what may be the
central problem and effective solution. Analysing reliable informa-
tion and testing creative solutions in order to observe their effects
in practice can result in more realistic actions with a positive ef-
Fashion design education aimed at enabling a positive change
can train students on problem solving. The focus of design edu-
cation on the aesthetic performance of products inspired in fash-
ion trends and lifestyle does not help to nd innovative solutions
to the growing clothing mountain. Educators must teach the next
generation of makers to think systemically, considering and facili-
tating a product’s end-of-life and viewing garments also in terms
of materials, not only trend items. Using common design practices
in other sectors such as involving potential users in the process of
design, prototype testing, and incremental innovation could lead to
more meaningful and long-lasting products. Moreover, encouraging
fashion designers to use their problem-solving skills to nd better
ways of designing, producing, selling, using, maintaining, and dis-
posing of clothing would empower the sector to nd alternatives.
The collection of post-consumer textiles in the Netherlands can
be improved by clearer and more efcient communication to the
public. We found that consumers are generally not informed about
the destiny of textiles placed in the container. Communication pro-
grammes such as the ‘plastic hero’ campaign may contribute to
bigger separately collected volumes. Moreover, textile collectors
and sorters willing to commit to the development of the sector
can keep better track of their activity in terms of volumes and pric-
es, and share them accordingly. Transparency and collaboration
between these actors would enable technical assessments of the
sector’s activity. This information is central in order to nd the best
destination for post-consumer textiles in environmental terms.
Moreover, they can contribute to more local reuse and recycling by
partnering with other organizations such as second-hand stores,
platforms and street markets, recycling initiatives, etc. Additional-
ly, developing more and stronger end markets for non-rewearable
textiles is key. With separately collected post-consumer textile vol-
umes hopefully growing in the future, the sector will need innova-
tive solutions to transform a growing fraction of non-rewearable
textiles into new materials.
In our interviews with post-consumer textile collectors and sort-
ers, we identied some challenges for efcient collection that
could be improved with the collaboration of municipalities. Above
the ground containers result in a better quality of the textiles sort-
ed. Textile containers placed next to general waste containers with
restricted access (e.g. requiring a card) contribute to textile con-
tamination. More importantly, we recommend a general evaluation
of the current collection system and assessment of its long-term
sustainability. According to our interviews, a declining quality in
the textiles collected and the lack of end markets for low-value
post-consumer textiles are challenging the economic sustainability
of collectors and sorters. Moreover, more than half of all post-con-
sumer textiles are still disposed of via general household waste. In
sum, current systems may need to be redesigned in order to nd
the best destination for all Dutch post-consumer textiles.
In fact, public policy aimed at reducing the total clothing volumes
could help to balance tensions between economic and environ-
mental issues, as stressed at the start of this section. Subsidies
and other economic incentives supporting local reuse and recy-
cling such as tax benets for second-hand stores may increase
the volume of post-consumer textiles reused locally and maintain
or reduce resource use. Public advertising campaigns such as an-
ti-tobacco communication programmes may balance the effect of
fashion advertisement. In sum, systems based solely on economic
gains have proven to bring some challenges along. Public policy
may help to counterbalance and compensate environmental issues
in order to promote a prosperous apparel sector in a wider sense.
4.3 Recommendations for further
One aspect of the Dutch clothing mountain that we have not cov-
ered in this report is the trade of second-hand clothing. To our
knowledge, the volumes of clothing reuse exchanged locally via
online platforms, charity shops, and markets have not been inves-
tigated yet. Acceptance of second-hand clothing across different
sectors of the population is another promising eld of research, as
are the pricing criteria of consumers and intermediaries, and the
kind of garments more frequently exchanged.
Another important issue uncovered in this report is the volume
and destiny of product returns, online purchases play a central
role here. Moreover, we have not been able to trace the evolu-
tion in Dutch post consumer textiles destinations during the last
ve years, due to limited data shared by local collectors and sort-
ers. The cooperation of these actors in future research is central.
Moreover, their responses would enable historical analysis in the
average price of post consumer grades sold in order to assess the
economic sustainability of the sector.
Assessments of textile volumes discarded and separately collect-
ed using the same research methods for all countries in the region
are very much needed. The results of such a study would enable
analyses of the advantages and disadvantages of different collec-
tion methods, programmes, and policies so that we can learn from
each other and reach common goals.
Moreover, the effect of post consumer textiles in their different
destinations is yet to be determined. It is still unknown how much
of the textiles exported for reuse are actually reused, and what
is their effect in the country receiving them. The environmental
impacts of different downcycling, recycling and upcycling practic-
es should also be analyzed in more detail. One recommendation
is to assess the comparative environmental advantages of these
practices in relation to traditional resource use (employing tools
such as life-cycle analysis) while developing recycling solutions.
As mentioned in the previous section, the development of new re-
cycled textile materials and the technologies needed to produce
them is essential. However, this creative and technical research
should always keep a critical eye on its own environmental impli-
cations. Finally, the extent to which reuse actually substitutes the
production of new clothes is another promising eld of research
in the apparel sector. Previous research has pointed out that re-
placement of new items is never on a one-to-one basis and that
replacement rates differ across nations.
For our wardrobe studies and container analysis we developed re-
search tools that should be employed to enlarge the samples so
that the ndings are representative. These tools are available for
anyone interested to repeat the study in the Netherlands enabling
historical perspectives or to perform similar studies abroad.
Lastly, more research is needed connecting clothing purchase, us-
age, and discarding behavior. These longitudinal studies are cer-
tainly complex, but it is only by understanding what lies behind dai-
ly practices that we can propose constructive solutions to maintain
or reduce the volume of the Dutch clothing mountain.
home textiles
Retail volume
Retail value
Textile-based products and materials in-
cluding all clothing, accesories and home
Towels, sheets, curtains and other
non-wearable textile products.
Wearable products including those made
out of textiles (e.g. shirts, trousers, etc.)
and other materials (e.g. shoes, belts, bags,
Piece or clothing. Sometimes items in-
clude more than one garment, such as in
packaging including several pairs of socks,
and sets of underwear.
Volume of sales to consumers, measured
in items, including both ofine and online
purchases and excluding second-hand
products (reused).
Value of the retail volume at the point of
sale, measured in Euros or Pounds.
Set of clothing owned by a single person
including items kept in storage spaces,
laundry area, and those separated for ex-
change or charity.
Item that has not been worn in the last
year or not worn at all.
Item that was owned and used by another
person before, including garments bought
in second-hand shops or markets, items
given or exchanged.
Textile products are used again, with no
alteration to the original item.
Recycling is the process of breaking down
textiles into raw materials which are then
used to make new products.
Using a mechanical process, discarded tex-
tiles are turned into new products, usually
with a lower value and industrial applica-
tion. Textiles are cut into cleaning cloth,
shredded to create insulation/ll and/or
bers are bonded in composite materials.
Using a mechanical or chemical process,
discarded textiles are regenerated into new
products, usually with a higher value appli-
cation such as yarns, fabrics and garments.
Textile by-product from the manufacturing
stage (eg. clipping waste, offcuts, roll ends
and remnants).
Finished textile products which are unt
for sale (e.g. manufacturing rejects, and
Unused item
second-hand item
Used textiles products that have been
collected from the consumer (eg. used
clothing, footwear, accessories, linens,
and other household soft goods disposed
within general household waste or sepa-
rately collected via clothing banks, dona-
tion points, in-store collection schemes, or
waste management companies).
Used textile products that are catego-
rized as suitable for rewear or reuse at the
sorting facility. This fraction will be sold or
donated, to either domestic or internation-
al markets.
Used textiles that are categorized as un-
suitable for rewear or reuse at the sort-
ing facility, due to damage, substantial
wear and tear or style obsolescence. This
fraction will be sent towards incineration,
downcycling or high-value recycling solu-
tions, depending on the product specica-
tions, quality and available end markets.
Unsorted post-consumer textiles or rough-
ly sorted post-consumer textiles, in which
any non-textiles items have been removed.
The practice of separating post-consumer
textile products according to quality speci-
cations or end market specications.
BVSE, 2015. Konsum,
Bedarf und Wiederverwertung von Bekleidung
und Textilien in Deutschland
, Available at:
CBS, CBS Statline. Available at:
lication/?DM=SLNL&PA=81416NED&D1=1-8,13&D2=a&VW=T [Ac-
cessed June 9, 2017].
Dubois, M., de Graaf, D. & Thieren, J., 2016.
Exploration of the Role
of Extended Producer Responsibility for the circular economy in
the Netherlands
, Available at:
EcoTLC, 2016.
2016 at a glance
, France. Available at: http://www.
EcoTLC, 2012.
Rapport d’activite 2012
, France. Available at: http://
Eureco, 2010.
Kwaliteit van textiel in het huishoudelijk restafval .
, Available at:
Euromonitor, 2017. Euromonitor statistics. Available at: http://www.
main [Accessed June 1, 2017].
FFact, 2014.
Massabalans van in Nederland ingezameld en geïmpor-
teerd textiel
, Available at:
Bestanden/FFact Textiel rapport 07.pdf.
GfK, 2017.
Data provided by e-mail communication with Gino Thuij
Kellermann, H., 2016.
Closing the Loop of the Fashion Supply Chain
Leiden University and TU Delft.
Klepp, I.G. & Laitala, K., 2015. His mother’s dress: growth in the
number of clothes. In P. Standbakken & J. Gronow, eds.
Consumer in Society
. Oslo: Abstrakt forlag, pp. 311–334.
Matevosyan, H., 2014.
Paradigm shift in Fashion
, Booklight.
Morley, N. et al., 2006.
Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste
Available at:
Morley, N.J., Bartlett, C. & McGill, I., 2009.
Maximising Reuse and
Recycling of UK Clothing and Textiles: A report to the Depart-
ment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
., London. Available
Niinimäki, K., 2011.
From Disposable to Sustainable: the Com-
plex Interplay between Design and Consumption of Textiles
and Clothing
, Available at: https://aaltodoc.aalto./han-
Palm, D. et al., 2014.
Towards a Nordic textile strategy
, Available
Rijkswaterstaat, Publicaties Uitvoering Afvalbeheer. Available at:
[Accessed June 9, 2017].
Tojo, N. et al., 2012.
Prevention of Textile Waste
, Copenhagen: Nor-
dic Council of Ministers. Available at: http://norden.diva-portal.
Vlek, O. & de Jongh, J., 2016.
Kapitaal in de kast
Watson, D. et al., 2014.
Mindre affald og mere genanvendelse i tek-
stilbranchen Idéer fra aktørerne på tekstilområdet
, Copenhagen.
Available at:les/cases/nal.pdf.
Wijnia, G., 2016.
Mapping obsolete inventory in the Dutch apparel
. Wageningen University.
WRAP, 2012.
Valuing our Clothes. The True Cost of how we Design,
Use and Dispose of Clothing in the UK
., Available at: http://www.les/wrap/VoC FINAL online 2012 07 11.pdf.

Supplementary resource (1)

... Furthermore, the respondents were asked to indicate how many of these items were unused items and/or second-hand. These questions are based on the wardrobe study by Maldini et al. [20]. The main difference in methodology is the way data were collected. ...
... Differences between males and females were calculated using an independent samples t-test [21]. Age was divided into the same three age categories as the study of Maldini et al. [20] (18-30, 31-50, 51+), and 8 nationalities were compared with each other (6 European countries with the highest count, and two non-European countries with the highest count (India and the United States). Lastly the total amount of clothes was measured using only the 17 predefined categories, in order to make the amounts comparable. ...
... Several reasons can be found for this. First, Maldini et al. have included data of two clothing categories, socks and underwear, based on a Euromonitor dataset [20]. In this study these categories were excluded. ...
Full-text available
Extending the use of garments is often seen as an important strategy to decrease the impact of the fashion industry. However, currently there are a lack of data on and understanding of consumers’ wardrobes. This study explores consumers’ wardrobes internationally, and we aim to explore the total amount, unused and second-hand garments in order to develop interventions to support reuse. Through an online course, data were gathered in a survey about the content of participants’ wardrobes, counting the amounts of garments in predefined categories, and the amount of unused and second-hand garments thereof. Differences were found between clothing categories, age groups and gender for unused and second-hand garments. Between nationalities only differences were found for second-hand garments. These insights are supportive to targeted interventions for gender and age groups related to specific categories of (unused and second-hand) garments, to elongate the practical service life of garments, support consumers’ sustainable clothing decisions and in the end reduce consumption. Additionally, this exploration provides insights how to improve international monitoring and the value of digital wardrobe studies. Recommendations are provided, especially focused on interventions to support motivations, capabilities, and opportunities to improve reuse. Ultimately, through consumers’ wardrobes this study supports the next steps towards a more circular clothing system.
... Therefore, there is a need for more information on the use phase of wool, but also on other fibres if comparisons of the environmental impacts of various materials are to be made. Most fibre ranking tools in use today exclude this phase (Made-By, 2013, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 2017. ...
... Wardrobe studies of 50 adults in the Netherlands showed that they had on average 130 clothing items (excluding socks and underwear but including shoes and accessories). Based on sales statistics, the number of socks and underwear was estimated to be 43 sets, resulting in a total wardrobe size of 173 clothing items (Maldini et al., 2017). The respondents were asked to estimate the number of items they owned before they were counted, and they had on average 22.7 items (21%) more than they thought they had. ...
... The largest wardrobes were around 300 items, and the smallest 40 items (excluding socks and underwear). Similar wardrobe study of fifty people in Germany showed that they owned on average 29 clothing items more than the Dutch; 159 items excluding socks and underwear (Maldini et al., 2017). A British survey of 7950 respondents included a question of how many clothing items they owned in different categories, and how many of those they had not worn in the last 12 months (Gracey & Moon, 2012). ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This report presents a literature review of clothing use phase. The purpose is to support improved methodological development for accounting for the use phase in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of apparel. All relevant textile fibres are included in the review. However, the main focus is on wool. We ask whether the use of wool has different environmental impacts than clothes in other fibres. The report builds on a review of literature from the past 20 years. The review showed that clothing made from different materials are used, and reused in different ways. Wool is washed differently as it has about ten degrees lower washing temperature than the average laundry in Europe. Wool is also more likely to be either dry-cleaned or washed by hand than other textiles. Moreover, when dried, it is less likely to be tumble-dried. When comparing the number of days between the washes of different types of clothes, we found that respondents were likely to use their woollen products about twice as long between washes compared to their equivalent cotton products. We also found that woollen products had a longer average lifespan and were more likely to be reused or recycled. There is a lot of research-based information available concerning the use and re-use of clothing, and we believe there are sufficient results available on which to base LCA studies. Furthermore, we believe that environmental tools that compare different fibres but exclude use phase provide misleading results Including the use phase in fibre ranking benchmark tools will improve the rigour and accuracy of these tools for all fibres, compared to reporting results for fibre production only. However, we have also shown that there are several methodological, conceptual and empirical knowledge gaps in existing literature.
... For instance, people living in Oslo or close by buy more clothing pieces and their total consumption is larger than the average for Norway (Laitala and Klepp, 2020). In the Netherlands, people living in cities own more garments and more clothes that are not actively used (Maldini et al., 2017). Therefore, cities are key in fostering sustainable consumption, including but not restricted to waste prevention. ...
... These containers are managed by charitable organisations that used to pay a fee to municipalities to operate. Regulations introduced in 2009 oblige these organisations to collect all textiles and accessories regardless of their quality and to make that clear in their communication to citizens (Maldini et al. 2017). As a result, all collectors need to be registered as waste organisations (Watson et al. 2018). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
European clothing consumption has increased dramatically in recent decades, leading to a current average of 26 kg of textiles annually purchased per capita (EEA, 2019). While garments (and most of clothing’s environmental impacts) are produced in other parts of the world, European municipalities face a problem of increasing volumes of textile waste. Moreover, the revised waste directive of 2018 specifies that European Union countries will be obliged to collect textiles separately by 2025. This study investigates how these phenomena are affecting city-level policy and strategy, including but not limited to textile waste management. It builds on a comparative analysis of official documents informed by interviews with policy makers and waste management authorities in five European cities. The research points out that, in these cities, clothing environmental policy and other public initiatives are at varied levels of development. The paper identifies three kinds of measures, namely (a) improving separate collection, (b) waste prevention, and (c) consumption reduction. Reducing the share of textiles disposed of in general household waste (and therefore increasing separate collection) has been a central aim in cities where textiles fall under local waste regulation. The waste directive mentioned above makes separate collection of all textiles compulsory for EU members, leading to revisions in some cities’ collection systems. Some municipalities have gone one step further in preventing these textiles from reaching waste streams by supporting local initiatives for repair and reuse. The most advanced and recent approach is aiming at reductions in new clothing demand through citizen campaigns and monitoring the effect of repair and reuse actions in consumption levels. The comparative analysis leads to recommendations for future policy and strategy including developing the three approaches mentioned above simultaneously, further exploring measures for consumption reduction, and the integration of more concrete targets and monitoring plans, so that the most effective paths in social and environmental terms can be identified.
... At the same time, the available research indicates that the average number of times a piece of clothing had been worn before being disposed of, declined by more than a third and by even more in emerging markets (Minter, 2018). For the Netherlands, on average, each consumer buys 46 new pieces of clothing per year, while disposing of 40 pieces (Maldini et al., 2017). Around 15% to 20% of global PCT is reused or recycled, while more than two thirds end up as waste (GBA, 2017;Shirvanimoghaddam et al., 2020): ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Netherlands has the ambition to achieve a fully circular economy by 2050. At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we explore what such a transition could mean for low- and middle-income countries that are connected to the Netherlands through international value chains. In this report, we focus on textiles. More specifically, we examine cotton production in West Africa and post-consumer textiles processing in Pakistan. Trade data was used to visualise trade in cotton, garments and post-consumer textiles to and from the Netherlands. Literature review and expert interviews were used to qualitatively assess socio-economic and environmental impacts in low- and middle-income countries. The study is part of a broader project that analyses transboundary effects of the circular economy transition in the Netherlands.
... The use phase of clothes differs from electrical household appliances in several ways. In general, consumers usually only have one of each of the mentioned appliances, while their wardrobes may consist of hundreds of garments Klepp et al., 2019;Maldini et al., 2017). Clothes are rarely purchased as a replacement for discarded garments (Maldini, 2019), which often is the case for household appliances. ...
Full-text available
Increasing product lifespans is one of the most effective environmental strategies and therefore repair is a part of the circular economy approach that aims to keep products and materials longer in use. This article explores drivers and barriers for repair from consumers' and commercial repair actors' viewpoints , in order to understand how the repair rates of household appliances, mobile phones and clothing could be increased. The study is based on a consumer survey of 1196 respondents in Norway, and 15 qualitative interviews with actors in the commercial repair industry working with repairs of household consumer goods. A surprisingly high share of repairs was conducted by consumers themselves. The main barrier is the consistently low price of new products, and often of poor quality, which contributes to low profitability in repair work for businesses and low motivation from consumers. Furthermore, access to competent personnel is a major challenge for the repair industry, a need which is expected to increase in the coming years. Both the industry and consumers agree that better quality of products is a starting point for increased product lifespans, and this will also increase the motivation and the number of profitable repairs. These results have political implications on how to promote longer product lifespans through repair such as increased utilization and knowledge of consumers' complaint and warranty rights.
Full-text available
Purpose Garment production and use generate substantial environmental impacts, and the care and use are key determinants of cradle-to-grave impacts. The present study investigated the potential to reduce environmental impacts by applying best practices for garment care combined with increased garment use. A wool sweater is used as an example because wool garments have particular attributes that favour reduced environmental impacts in the use phase. Methods A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to compare six plausible best and worst-case practice scenarios for use and care of a wool sweater, relative to current practices. These focussed on options available to consumers to reduce impacts, including reduced washing frequency, use of more efficient washing machines, reduced use of machine clothing dryers, garment reuse by multiple users, and increasing number of garment wears before disposal. A sixth scenario combined all options. Worst practices took the worst plausible alternative for each option investigated. Impacts were reported per wear in Western Europe for climate change, fossil energy demand, water stress and freshwater consumption. Results and discussion Washing less frequently reduced impacts by between 4 and 20%, while using more efficient washing machines at capacity reduced impacts by 1 to 6%, depending on the impact category. Reduced use of machine dryer reduced impacts by < 5% across all indicators. Reusing garments by multiple users increased life span and reduced impacts by 25–28% across all indicators. Increasing wears from 109 to 400 per garment lifespan had the largest effect, decreasing impacts by 60% to 68% depending on the impact category. Best practice care, where garment use was maximised and care practices focussed on the minimum practical requirements, resulted in a ~ 75% reduction in impacts across all indicators. Unsurprisingly, worst-case scenarios increased impacts dramatically: using the garment once before disposal increased GHG impacts over 100 times. Conclusions Wool sweaters have potential for long life and low environmental impact in use, but there are substantial differences between the best, current and worst-case scenarios. Detailed information about garment care and lifespans is needed to understand and reduce environmental impacts. Opportunities exist for consumers to rapidly and dramatically reduce these impacts. The fashion industry can facilitate this through garment design and marketing that promotes and enables long wear life and minimal care.
Full-text available
An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Full-text available
The fashion industry is the second largest industrial polluter after aviation, accounting for up to 10% of global pollution. Despite the widely publicized environmental impacts, however, the industry continues to grow, in part due to the rise of fast fashion, which relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent consumption and short-lived garment use. In this Review, we identify the environmental impacts at critical points in the textile and fashion value chain, from production to consumption, focusing on water use, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions and textile waste. Impacts from the fashion industry include over 92 million tonnes of waste produced per year and 1.5 trillion litres of water consumed. On the basis of these environmental impacts, we outline the need for fundamental changes in the fashion business model, including a deceleration of manufacturing and the introduction of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain, as well a shift in consumer behaviour — namely, decreasing clothing purchases and increasing garment lifetimes. These changes stress the need for an urgent transition back to ‘slow’ fashion, minimizing and mitigating the detrimental environmental impacts, so as to improve the long-term sustainability of the fashion supply chain.
Eivind Stø likes a tell an illustrative once told a story about his mother who went through World War II with only one dress due to rationing. Today women have many dresses; more than we can wear out in 5 years. Since 1990, Norway’s clothing imports have almost doubled (Statistics Norway, 2014) and we did not lack clothing in 1990. This chapter discusses what we know about this change. What do we know about the number of clothes in use? When did they multiply to such an extent? What sources and methods do we have to describe this growth? In general, growth should be a more central theme in the environmental debate, especially when it comes to clothing and other items where growth in numbers is completely decoupled from a corresponding increase in satisfaction. As long as we produce (and purchase) far more clothes than we need, quantity should be an essential theme. Lifecycle thinking has little relevance when the cycle ignores use. To put it another way, without knowing anything about the amount we can hardly reach a future where production matches our need to be warm and beautiful. Nevertheless, there are a few relevant studies of this growth. We will use previous investigations of clothing consumption in Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as material from SIFO’s projects on clothing consumption, where we have attempted to approach an understanding of the number of clothes that people possess.
Konsum, Bedarf und Wiederverwertung von Bekleidung und Textilien in Deutschland
  • Bvse References
References BVSE, 2015. Konsum, Bedarf und Wiederverwertung von Bekleidung und Textilien in Deutschland, Available at: images/pdf/Leitfaeden-Broschueren/150914_Textilstudie_2015. pdf.
Available at:
  • Cbs Statline
CBS, CBS Statline. Available at:,13&D2=a&VW=T [Accessed June 9, 2017].
2016 at a glance, France
  • Ecotlc
EcoTLC, 2016. 2016 at a glance, France. Available at: http://www.
Rapport d'activite 2012, France Available at: http://
  • Ecotlc
EcoTLC, 2012. Rapport d'activite 2012, France. Available at: http:// pdf.
Kwaliteit van textiel in het huishoudelijk restafval . Inhoudsopgave, Available at: www
  • Eureco
Eureco, 2010. Kwaliteit van textiel in het huishoudelijk restafval. Inhoudsopgave, Available at: pages/.../eindrapport_eureco.pdf.
Euromonitor statistics
  • Euromonitor
Euromonitor, 2017. Euromonitor statistics. Available at: http://www. [Accessed June 1, 2017].
Massabalans van in Nederland ingezameld en geïmpor-teerd textiel
  • Ffact
FFact, 2014. Massabalans van in Nederland ingezameld en geïmpor-teerd textiel, Available at: Bestanden/FFact Textiel rapport 07.pdf.
Data provided by e-mail communication with Gino Thuij Closing the Loop of the Fashion Supply Chain
  • Gfk
GfK, 2017. Data provided by e-mail communication with Gino Thuij, Kellermann, H., 2016. Closing the Loop of the Fashion Supply Chain. Leiden University and TU Delft.
Paradigm shift in Fashion
  • H Matevosyan
Matevosyan, H., 2014. Paradigm shift in Fashion, Booklight.