New YouGov research also reveals one in ten millennials keep their clothes for under a year before throwing them away
Fast fashion has transformed the way we shop. The advent of more accessible and affordable fashion means that consumers are shopping more than ever before. The number of garments bought by the average shopper each year grew by 60% between 2000 and 2014 alone. With new lines added on a weekly basis, consumers no longer need to wait for the seasons to change to buy the latest trends. High street chains have come to dominate the market, so much so that fast fashion giant H&M is now twice as valuable as Chanel.
While many welcome the fashion revolution, accidents such as the Rana Plaza tragedy and accusations of exploitation have embroiled popular brands such as Zara, leading to questions over the industry’s ethics. Critics have also highlighted the impact that fast fashion brands have on the environment, fueling demand for cheap, disposable clothing that is carbon-intensive to produce and often ends up in landfill.
The latest YouGov Omnibus research reveals the extent of clothes waste in Malaysia. It finds that seven in ten Malaysians (68%) have thrown clothes away at some point in the past year and a quarter (25%) have thrown away more than ten items of clothing in the past year.
Nearly three in ten (27%) have thrown away an item of clothing after wearing it just once and, in the past year alone, 14% of all respondents have thrown away at least three items that they’ve only worn once.
37% of millennials have purchased at least half of the clothes that they own in the past 12 months
Fashion is big business in Malaysia, with more than one in ten (12%) estimating that they own over 100 garments (excluding underwear or accessories). Millennials (those aged between 16 and 34) have the highest proportion of new clothing; 37% of millennials say they have purchased at least half of the clothes that they own in the past year alone. This compares with 23% of baby boomers (those over 55) that say the same.
One in ten millennials (10%) say that, in general, they keep their clothes for under a year before throwing them away. 6% of baby boomers say the same.
Nearly three in ten millennials have thrown unwanted clothes in the bin
While giving unwanted clothes to charity and passing them on to friends/family and giving them to charity are common among Malaysians (done by 62% and 54% of all respondents, respectively), different generations also dispose on unwanted clothes differently.
Millennials are six times more likely to sell unwanted clothes online (18% have done so, whereas 3% of baby boomers have) and are also more likely to upcycle unwanted clothing (re-fashion unwanted clothing to make new garments) – done by 13% of millennials and 8% of baby boomers.
However, they are also more likely to dispose of unwanted clothing using less sustainable methods such as throwing them in the bin (done by 27% of millennials, compared to 17% of baby boomers) or simply burning them (7% of millennials have done this, whereas just 2% of baby boomers have).
15% of Malaysians have thrown away clothes because they are bored of wearing them
The most popular reason for disposing of clothes is because they no longer fit, which 55% consider grounds for throwing garments away. Other common reasons to throw clothes away are because they’re damaged (chosen by 53%) and because they have developed a fault (selected by 39% of respondents).
However, some simply throw clothes away because their tastes change; 16% say they clothes away because they’re “more than a few seasons old”, 15% say they do so because they’re “bored of wearing it”, and 14% throw clothes away because an item has “now become unfashionable”.
YouGov’s Head of Omnibus, Jake Gammon, comments. “Fast fashion brands have been keen to remove their unsustainable label. Yet despite various recycling initiatives by leading labels, this survey highlights just how many clothes go to waste each year in Malaysia. Looking ahead to the future, there is a worrying trend among millennials; their propensity to use less sustainable means to dispose of old clothing than older generations suggests that there is an uphill battle ahead for those keen to tackle this issue head on.”
The bigger picture
At a regional level, Vietnamese and Chinese consumers are the most likely to keep clothes for under a year before throwing them away, where 27% and 23% do so (respectively). By contrast, Australians, Hong Kongers and Singaporeans are the least likely to keep their clothes for under a year – just 4%, 6% and 6% (respectively) say the same.
However, Thais are the most likely to have thrown away more than three items of clothing in the past year that they have only worn once (17% have done so), whereas Chinese consumers are the least likely (8% have done so). On the other end of the scale, as many as 25% of Filipinos, 21% of Malaysians and 21%of Indonesians have not thrown away any items of clothing in the past year.
*Data was collected online by YouGov Omnibus between 20 and 30 October 2017 among 1,727 respondents in Malaysia. Results are representative of the adult online population.
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