Billions of dollars of clothing hangs unworn in wardrobes

HONG KONG, 22 Jun 2016 ¬– A Greenpeace study has found that Hong Kong residents seldom or never wear an estimated HKD 3.9 billion worth of clothing that they have purchased. The study was conducted by TNS, an independent global research agency, to uncover the shopping habits and consumer mentality of people in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Greenpeace urges Hong Kong public to reflect on their shopping habits and consumer mentality as well as pursue a more sustainable shopping lifestyle. Greenpeace also suggests the Hong Kong government commits to developing a sustainable fashion industry in Hong Kong.

Greenpeace Campaigner Bonnie Tang said: “Although Hong Kong residents own nearly 100 pieces of clothing and seldom or never wear so many items, each year the average resident will still shop more than 10 times for clothing and spend nearly HKD 10,000 on new clothes. Does shopping equal being fashionable? I think it is time for us to reflect deeply upon our shopping habits and mentality.”

TNS interviewed 2,000 Hong Kong and Taiwan residents for the study, ranging in age from 20 to 45 years old, half of which are parents. The main findings are:

  • Hong Kong residents own an average of 94 pieces of clothing; 
  • Hong Kong women own an average of 109 pieces of clothing, 30% more than men;
  • 16% of all the clothes owned by Hong Kong residents (equivalent to 15 items) are seldom or never worn; and
  • Assuming each piece of clothing is worth HKD 100, Greenpeace estimated that Hong Kong residents wasted HKD 3.9 billion on buying clothes that they seldom or never wear.

Last year, Greenpeace estimated that the equivalents of roughly 1,400 t-shirts are discarded every minute in Hong Kong. This year, the TNS study exposed the fact that every Hong Kong person discards one each of t-shirts, trousers, shirts, coats, knitwear/sweaters, and a pair of shoes every year. The main reason given by respondents for clothing disposal in Hong Kong was ‘the sizes of the clothes don’t fit me anymore’. Only 27% of all Hong Kong residents repaired their clothes in the two months prior to the study, showing that instead of repairing their clothes, Hong Kong people predominantly choose to discard them. In Taiwan, the main reason given by respondents for clothing disposal was ‘the clothes are damaged or stained.’ The percentages of Hong Kong and Taiwanese residents who consider recycling their clothing are 62% and 73% respectively. However, 40% of overall respondents consider discarding clothes directly.

Nonetheless, the 2016 TNS study shows that the environmental awareness of Hong Kong parents is considerably higher than the average respondent. Nearly 60% of parents are concerned about the hazardous chemicals produced during clothing manufacturing. Moreover, almost 70% of Hong Kong parents consider purchasing second-hand clothes for their kids, clearly showing that there is significant market potential for developing sustainable fashion for children in Hong Kong. However, future sustainable fashion brands must be aware that the industry lacks communicative channels, platforms and networks in the Hong Kong second-hand clothing market.

Sustainable fashion is not prevalent among residents in Hong Kong and Taiwan. For Hong Kong residents, the price of clothing is the most important purchase consideration. More than half of the Hong Kong respondents said they have never purchased second-hand or sustainable fashion and stated that they do not know where to buy them. John Tsang, HKSAR Financial Secretary, stated clearly in the HKSAR 2015-2016 budget that the Hong Kong government would invest HKD500 million to promote the development of Hong Kong’s fashion designers and brands. Yet, the funding is not specifically dedicated to sustainable fashion development. Greenpeace suggests the HKSAR government takes a more proactive and leading role in developing sustainable fashion in Hong Kong.

Greenpeace Campaigner Bonnie Tang recommended: “Hong Kong should evaluate its fashion sustainability and learn from cities around the globe. Many cities have been actively developing their second-hand clothing markets and they are also promoting and supporting the development of sustainable fashion. For example, the European Union implemented the European Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) in 2015, aimed at adopting a circular approach to divert over 90,000 tonnes/year of clothing waste from landfill and incineration across Europe by 2019. ECAP will engage designers, brands, retailers, public, public procurers, and recyclers to integrate sustainability improvements within the design, production, procurement, sale, use, and disposal of clothing.

Media Contact:

Bonnie Tang,
Greenpeace Campaigner
email: [email protected]
phone: 2854 8371

Ray Yeung,
Greenpeace Communications Officer
email: [email protected]
phone: 2854 8376