‘If people wore clothes for two, three four days, you start halving or quartering, or whatever, the amount of detergent you use to clean those clothes…’
Washing clothes has a detrimental impact on the environment, according to an article published in the latest issue of SCI’s magazine; Chemistry & Industry.
The article, Washing dilemma, suggests that while many shoppers may be buying less clothes to help protect the environment, they may not have considered the impact that washing clothing has. While less laundering reduces the amount of detergent and energy used, it also increases the lifespan of clothes. Citing the charity Clothes Aid, the article says ‘Washing less frequently also makes clothes last longer, an important consideration when the UK alone sends around 350 000 tonnes of used clothing – worth around £140 million to landfill, that’s about a third of all unwanted clothing.’
The article has been picked up by wider news media, with the Telegraph and Sunday Times among several publications covering the news and discussing the implications of laundering clothes for the environment.
To provide wider context, SCI’s Head of Innovation, David Bott, was invited to talk about the issues raised in the article on UK radio station LBC. Speaking to presenter Rachel Johnson, Bott said that the issue is not about doing away with soaps, which is a vital part of health, but using them in moderation. ‘If people wore clothes for two, three four days, you start halving or quartering, or whatever, the amount of detergent you use to clean those clothes. So it’s a combination of using better products, less of them, and using them less that can make a contribution towards climate change.’
Bott added that Government regulation could help the consumer when making choices about which cleaning products had the least impact on the environment. ‘Some form of measurement of the impact of products, which guides the consumer to know which have the least impact on the environment, is the right thing to do by the Government,’ Bott said. He cited the labelling on white goods which indicates their energy efficiency, as an example of how regulation has led to more efficient products helping the consumer make informed choices and reducing environmental impact.