Take action against clothing waste

1 dumpster of clothes is thrown away every second in the world . This figure is frightening but is not intended to scare you. The objective of our article is to trigger awareness and action. For this, it is true that there is nothing better than to start with a few figures.

The textile industry in figures

The 2nd most polluting industry

It pollutes more than international flights and maritime traffic combined , with a carbon impact of 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.

The 3rd water consuming sector
  • 2,700 liters of water are needed to make a single T-shirt: that's what we use for 70 showers!

It is also 4% of the available drinking water that this industry uses to make clothes: confusing when you know that this blue gold is likely to find itself at the center of conflicts in the years to come.

But the fact that the textile industry uses our resources unreasonably and dangerously pollutes both the air and the water is perhaps not the worst part. The real disaster is rather knowing that too many of these textiles, the production of which has a serious impact on the planet, end up in the trash. 4 million tonnes are thrown away each year in Europe. This figure illustrates the scourge of clothing waste to which we are devoting this article. If you want to learn more about the pollution of the fashion industry, we redirect you to the work carried out by ADEME - their complete report or their infographic - on which we have relied for this article.

  • 460 billion dollars of waste every year in the world.
  • 73% of textile fibers are eliminated , incinerated or landfilled. Less than 1% is reused to make new clothes (according to the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation report ).

  • Up to 20,000 tons of textiles are destroyed in France each year according to the government. That is twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower.

How can we define clothing waste more precisely?

It can be defined as the misuse of TLC - T extiles for clothing, Linen , Footwear - to the point of losing them without benefiting from them.

It is perfectly illustrated through a scandalous practice yet widespread in the fashion industry: destroying millions of unsold products that are still consumable. In 2017, a Danish investigation revealed that the H&M flagship fast fashion brand incinerated 60,000 tonnes of unsold goods. The same year, Burberry admitted having destroyed clothing and cosmetics worth 31 million euros. In 2019, it is the giant Amazon to be accused of having thrown away more than 3.2 million new manufactured objects in one year in France.

Their reasons? The overproduction of companies in response to global overconsumption forces them to store unsold products and this costs them more. But why not give them away instead? The luxurious Burberry explains that if it prefers to destroy its products rather than sell them off, it is to preserve its precious and exclusive brand image.

These practices are revolting but are they therefore illegal?

What does the law say about this?

French law had no measure, simply because the phenomenon was new. But the revelation of Amazon's actions on its territory prompted it to intervene to regulate the excesses of this industry. Thus, in February 2020, the law on the fight against waste for a circular economy comes into force. Companies are now prohibited from disposing of their unsold products, either in landfills or by incineration. This is a world first which France can be proud of. The anti-waste law, also known as the AGEC law, is explained to you right here.

What about at European level? We can say that the European Union is setting the pace. In 2018, it issued several directives aimed at reducing the impact of certain products and waste on the environment. The member countries then have the obligation to transpose this directive, that is to say to make the given objectives appear in their national law. However, to achieve them, they remain free to develop their own measures. If the European Union sets the course, it does not impose a uniform policy on its members. This is why legislation in Europe remains very disparate on the subject of textile waste: if France has chosen an ambitious policy, most have only weak legislation.

Similarly, the European Union recently announced a new strategy for the textile industry with a view to being more sustainable and competitive. However, it is only an act of communication. It is feared that without a legal provision providing for sanctions, few companies are compelled to respect the standards of a circular, sustainable and responsible economy. To be effective, the law must also be harmonized because imposing legislation on companies only works if all are subject to the same rules. The legal challenge to fight effectively against clothing waste is then to unify European standards .

But if legislating seems the ideal way to regulate the industries that harm our planet, there is actually a subtle balance to be found between environmental protection and economic interests. It is indeed important that the European economy remains competitive, including from an environmental point of view. In the current state, most of the textile activity takes place outside Europe and completely escapes it. And unfortunately imposing international legislation is not even thinkable, the simple interests of China and the United States have taken precedence over the general interest of the whole planet.

We reassure you, governments and large companies are not the only players. If you felt powerless, find out how to become a changemaker yourself now.

What are the solutions to act on your scale?

Fighting against clothing waste means stopping wasting your textiles that still have potential, by simply giving them a second life.


Giving a second life to the clothes you no longer wear surely means something to you. This is indeed the famous slogan of Vinted . The application has developed enormously in recent years, proof that the fight is progressing on our side! Other platforms for the sale of second-hand products have also established themselves, such as Vestiaire Collective for high-end items, the online thrift store Once Again or the Reboucle recently created by La Redoute. Ideal for reselling household linen (bed linen, table linen, curtains) which is thought of less often than clothing. However, it is a good opportunity to empty your cupboards by earning money and saving these textiles from waste. It is of course also possible to be a buyer on all these platforms. In addition to being simple and economical, this solution is also responsible.

We would like to remind you that your responsibility as a consumer begins with the purchase . Be sure to make good use of it and be aware of its impact. The idea is certainly not to stop consuming but simply to consume better. This involves thinking about each of your choices as a consumer because put together, they actually represent overall consumption.


To your loved ones, to associations or even to specialized shops. Among the 45,000 collection points in France, one of them is necessarily located near you. Find where to drop off your next textiles with this interactive map created by Refashion . This site is a gold mine to give a future to your textiles, we let you take a look.

Check that they are in good condition!

Focus on an association


A hole, a stain, a button less? That's no reason to throw away a piece of clothing. It's even the opportunity to reveal your talents !

The repair cafés for a moment of transmission and conviviality.

Volunteers share their techniques to fix absolutely everything. There are more than 300 in France, you can find the closest to you on this site.

Sewing workshops to make it a real hobby and become an expert

The Couture Académie Youtube channel to learn how to easily repair everything from home

The stain guide to find out how to perfectly remove the stain that's bothering you.


Is your product unsellable and irreparable? Again there are solutions.

To customize is to use your creativity to transform your clothes. [You can possibly propose a tutorial]

To recycle is to enhance your textiles by the magic process capable of transforming jeans into insulation or sneakers into covering a sports field. Associations and companies are full of innovative ideas to showcase your objects. In addition to limiting clothing waste, recycling is emerging as a new responsible way of producing. Often composed of 100% recycled fibers processed locally, recycled products have zero ecological impact, which makes them a promising solution on the way to becoming the essential link in the circular economy that we are trying to build.

A dumpster of clothes thrown away every second, remember? Since you started reading, more than 300 dumpsters have been thrown away. So now that each of you has mastered your power to act, don't wait any longer to achieve what you can on your scale!

Our sources and recommendations for more:



Infographics and figures:


Videos :

  • La Quotidienne report on clothing waste
  • Brut report on Emmaüs' action to revalorize recovered textiles

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Voir les produits adaptés aux particulier maintenant.