Many strategies are proposed that should enable the consumers to keep using the products for longer, but there is less research on which and how consumer practices contribute to longer lifespans. In this paper we focus on two specific, distinct ways of reaching long lifespans: 1) retaining redundant products even though they are not needed or used, and 2) keeping on using flawed products despite they no longer functioning, fitting, or delivering the expected service level. In the former, the products are passive while in the latter they remain in active use and thus reach longer service life. The discussion is based on six focus groups conducted in connection with the project LASTING. The overarching theme was product longevity of three product groups: electronics, textiles, and furniture. Our analysis points to five categories of explanations for products that are either kept despite the lack of any intention of using them again or retained in active use despite flaws: Economic, Ethical, Social, Emotional, and Intentions. It remains important to focus on active service life and various ways to promote it to reduce the environmental and climate impacts of consumption. The role of each of the five categories will be discussed, as well as implications for sustainability and policy options.
Authors: Kirsi Laitala, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Pål Strandbakken.
The Consumer Purchases Act is one of the cornerstones for ensuring that businesses are liable for defective or faulty products that do not meet the minimum requirements for lifespans. However, this right is too seldom used by consumers. This paper discusses the reasons for not complaining based on six consumer focus groups, where in total 36 consumers described furniture, electronics, and textile products that they were dissatisfied with. Many complaints were not made due to consumers’ cost-benefit evaluations, where they considered the economic costs, time use, and the needed effort, as well as the probability of getting the complaint accepted. Many participants lacked the competencies required to make the judgment when the right is applicable and where and how to proceed. Further, the expectations based on price and brand, properties of the product such as materials, as well as the type of fault and its relation to use were important. Strengthening and extending consumer rights to complain are discussed as an important part of the strategy to increase the quality of goods and extend their lifetimes. The findings show barriers and opportunities to the efficacy of this strategy that is highly relevant for policy development. There is a need for clear guidelines on what the consumer rights are for the specific products, what is considered unacceptable abrasion and normal use, and differentiation between commercial warranties and legal rights. Complaints are an important avenue for businesses to gain information about the performance of their products, and for legal durability expectations to be enforced.
Authors: Tone Rasch, Ingrid Haugsrud, Kirsi Laitala and Atle Wehn Hegnes
Consumer practices related to how we use and take care of products have changed throughout history. Especially within clothing consumption, the changes have accelerated in the Twentieth Century. In this paper, we use thin nylon stockings for women as an example product to see how their value, use, care, and lifetimes have evolved. The material is based on a literature review on nylon stockings from 1940 to today, accompanied by an analysis of consumers’ written narratives from 1990 where people were asked to describe their use and memories of stockings and pantyhose. Our contemporary data is based on consumer focus groups on product lifetimes and plastic materials conducted in 2021 and 2022. The tight-fitting nylon stockings for women were launched around World War II by the American company DuPont. Cheap nylon substituted luxurious silk stockings and increased their popularity throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Around 1970, synthetic substances were devalued when fashion changed from elegance to more casual styles, and the political opposition to plastic as environmental damage and a symbol of the established society permeated the growing youth culture. Consequently, nylon stockings went out of fashion. Today, thin pantyhose is seen as disposable consumables with low value. Thin stockings represent a good example of how we value and take care of delicate items has a significant contribution to their lifetimes. Looking into the historical context is beneficial for learning about the points in time when changes occurred and how they contribute to consumer practices.
Textile fibers have become a major issue in the debate on sustainable fashion and clothing consumption. While consumers are encouraged to choose more sustainable and circular textile materials, studies have indicated that a reduction in production and consumption has the greatest potential to reduce the total environmental impact. This can be considered an ecocentric perspective with a focus on degrowth as opposed to a technocentric view where new technologies are expected to solve environmental problems while economic growth continues. Based on a survey in Norway (N = 1284), we investigate how the techno- and ecocentric perspectives impact Norwegian consumers’ fiber preferences and perceptions and the corresponding effects on their clothing consumption. We found that the majority of consumers preferred natural fibers compared to synthetic materials. This contradicts current market practices and the recommendations by material sustainability comparison tools such as the Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI), where many synthetics receive better ratings than natural fibers. We also found that perceptions of high sustainability regarding fibers were negatively correlated with reduced consumption. Our study suggests that a continued focus on material substitution and other technological measures for reducing climate change will impede the move toward sustainability in the textile sector.
Authors: Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp, SIFO
Garment lifetimes and longer serviceable life play important roles in discussions about the sustainability of clothing consumption.
A compilation of the research on clothing disposal motivations shows that there are three main reasons for disposal:
Intrinsic quality (37%): Wear and tear-related issues such as shrinkage, tears and holes, fading of colour, broken zippers and loss of technical functions such as waterproofness.
Fit (28%): Garments that do not fit either because the user has changed size, or the garment did not fit well to start with (for example due to unsuitable grading, insufficient wear ease or wrong size).
Perceived value (35%): reasons where the consumer no longer wants the garment because it is outdated or out of fashion, or no longer is needed or wanted, or is not valued, for example when there is a lack of space in the wardrobe.
This shows that almost two-thirds of garments are discarded for reasons other than physical durability. Poor fit/design together with lack of perceived value by the owner are responsible for the majority of clothing disposals.
Physical strength is one of the several factors that are important if the lifetime of clothing is to be increased. However, it does not help to make clothes stronger if they are not going to be used longer anyway; this will just contribute to increased environmental impacts from the production and disposal phases. We do not need disposable products» that last for centuries. To work with reducing the environmental impacts of clothing consumption, it is important to optimize the match between strength, value and fit. This has the potential to reduce overproduction. Optimizing clothing lifespans will ensure the best possible utilization of the materials in line with the intentions of the circular economy.
Garment lifetimes and longer serviceable life play important roles in discussions about the sustainability of clothing consumption.
Here we present the empirical findings summarized from the research that exists around clothing disposal. The review was originally conducted for the work with the development of durability criteria for Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for apparel and footwear. We believe this can be useful information for companies working to improve their products, and debate about clothing sustainability including the understanding of PEF.
We would like to thank Roy Kettlewell and Angus Ireland for their cooperation.
The review includes empirical quantitative studies on clothing disposal reasons. The studies use varying methods, where online surveys are the most commonly used, but also two physical wardrobe studies are included. The way disposal reasons are studied varies as well. Many surveys ask for general, most common disposal reasons, while wardrobe studies and a few of the surveys focus on specific garments that the informants have disposed of. One of the online wardrobe surveys also asks for anticipated disposal reasons for specific garments instead of past behavior. All of the studies have been conducted between 1987 and 2020. The review excluded any studies that did not focus on disposal reasons or did not report results in a quantitative manner. In addition, it excludes a few lower-quality studies with methodological issues. In total 17 studies that fulfil the inclusion criteria were found.
The review shows that clothing is discarded for many reasons. Table 1 summarizes the results and gives some information about the study sample such as where it was conducted and the number of respondents, as well as the main method that was used. Although there are differences between the surveys, they show a common feature. The results on disposal reasons could be placed in three main categories that were found in all reviewed studies: 1) intrinsic quality, 2) fit, and 3) perceived value, and an additional category for 4) other or unknown reasons. The categories include the following disposal reasons:
Intrinsic quality: Wear and tear-related issues such as shrinkage, tears and holes, fading of colour, broken zippers and loss of technical functions such as waterproofness.
Fit: Garments that do not fit either because the user has changed size, or the garment did not fit well to start with (for example due to unsuitable grading, insufficient wear ease or wrong size).
Perceived value: reasons where the consumer no longer wants the garment because it is outdated or out of fashion, or no longer is needed or wanted, or is not valued, for example when there is a lack of space in the wardrobe.
Research design and sample size
Other / unknown
AC Nielsen (Laitala & Klepp, 2020)
Survey in five countries, 1111 adults aged 18-64, anticipated disposal reason of 40,356 garments
Survey in the UK, 2058 adults, 16,895 garments, disposal reasons per clothing category past year
Laitala, Boks, and Klepp (2015)
Wardrobe study in Norway, 25 adults (9 men and 16 women), 396 discarded garments
Wardrobe study in Norway, 24 women aged 34- 46. 329 discarded garments
Collett, Cluver, and Chen (2013)
Interviews in the USA, 13 female students (aged 18 – 28). Each participant brought five fast fashion items that they no longer wear
Survey in the USA, 89 female students (aged 18 – 30). Most recent garment disposal reason.
Lang, Armstrong, and Brannon (2013)
Survey in the USA, 555 adults. General garment disposal reasons.
Koch and Domina (1997)
Survey in the USA, 277 students (82% female). General disposal reasons and methods.
Koch and Domina (1999) and Domina and Koch (1999)
Survey in the USA, 396 adults (88% female). General disposal reasons and methods.
Zhang et al. (2020)
Survey in China, 507 adults (53% female). General disposal reasons.
Ungerth and Carlsson (2011)
Survey in Sweden, 1014 adults (age 16 – 74). The most common disposal reason.
YouGov (Stevanin, 2019)
Survey in Italy, 992 adults, general disposal reasons.
YouGov (2017a, 2017b, 2017c, 2017d, 2017e)
Surveys in Australia, Philippine, Malaysia, Hong Kong & Singapore, in total 12,434 adults. General disposal reasons.
Approx. 20,000 adults
Table 1. Summary of clothing disposal reasons in 17 consumer studies.
When the category of other/unknown reasons is excluded, the division between the three main disposal reason categories is quite similar, with intrinsic quality constituting about 37% of disposal reasons, followed by lack of perceived value (35%) and poor fit (28%) (Figure 1).
A compilation of the research on clothing disposal motivations shows that there are three main reasons for disposal. Intrinsic quality, that is wear and tear and other physical changes of garments is the dominating disposal reason (37%), followed by lack of perceived value (35%) and poor fit (28%). This shows that almost two-thirds of garments are discarded for reasons other than physical durability. Poor fit/design together with lack of perceived value by the owner are responsible for the majority of clothing disposals.
Physical strength is one of the several factors that are important if the lifetime of clothing is to be increased. However, it does not help to make clothes stronger if they are not going to be used longer anyway: this will just contribute to increased environmental impacts from the production and disposal phases. We do not need «disposable products» that last for centuries. To work with reducing the environmental impacts of clothing consumption, it is important to optimize the match between strength, value and fit. Optimizing clothing lifespans will ensure the best possible utilization of the materials in line with the intentions of the circular economy.
Collett, M., Cluver, B., & Chen, H.-L. (2013). Consumer Perceptions the Limited Lifespan of Fast Fashion Apparel. Research Journal of Textile and Apparel, 17(2), 61-68. doi:10.1108/RJTA-17-02-2013-B009
Domina, T., & Koch, K. (1999). Consumer reuse and recycling of post-consumer textile waste. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 3(4), 346 – 359. doi:10.1108/eb022571
Klepp, I. G. (2001). Hvorfor går klær ut av bruk? Avhending sett i forhold til kvinners klesvaner [Why are clothes no longer used? Clothes disposal in relationship to women’s clothing habits]. Retrieved from Oslo: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12199/5390
Koch, K., & Domina, T. (1997). The effects of environmental attitude and fashion opinion leadership on textile recycling in the US. Journal of Consumer Studies & Home Economics, 21(1), 1-17. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.1997.tb00265.x
Koch, K., & Domina, T. (1999). Consumer Textile Recycling as a Means of Solid Waste Reduction. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 28(1), 3-17. doi:10.1177/1077727×99281001
Laitala, K., Boks, C., & Klepp, I. G. (2015). Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts. International Journal of Design, 9(2), 93-107.
Laitala, K., & Klepp, I. G. (2020). What Affects Garment Lifespans? International Clothing Practices Based on a Wardrobe Survey in China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. Sustainability, 12(21), 9151. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/21/9151
Lang, C., Armstrong, C. M., & Brannon, L. A. (2013). Drivers of clothing disposal in the US: An exploration of the role of personal attributes and behaviours in frequent disposal. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 37(6), 706-714. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12060
Forfattere: Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Anna Schytte Sigaard, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg og Kristiane Rabben
Innen 2025 skal tekstiler ut av restavfallet i Norge, som i resten av EU og EØS-området. Derfor haster det med kunnskap om hva tekstilavfallet består av og hvor det i dag havner. I prosjektet Wasted Textile har Mepex AS og SIFO gjennomført plukkanalyser av kasserte og donerte tekstiler. Rapport om dette kommer først i 2023, men foreløpige resultater viser at plukkanalyser er egnet for å gi kunnskaper om tekstilene og kan være nyttige i det viktige arbeidet som må gjøres for å redusere miljøbelastninger fra tekstilforbruket.
Høsten 2021 og våren 2022 ble det gjennomført plukkanalyser i Vestfold, Viken, Romerike og Oslo fra tre strømmer med innhold av kasserte tekstiler: restavfall fra husholdningen, det de fleste kaller søppel eller boss, restavfall levert til kontainer for brennbart restavfall på gjenvinningsstasjon og donerte tekstiler til UFF og Fretex. Tekstilene ble sortert etter type, fiberinnhold og tilstand, og deretter veid og telt.
Wasted Textiles, er finansiert av Norges Forskningsråd og Handelens Miljøfond og handler om å redusere mengden fossile tekstiler og utnytte tekstilavfall bedre. Fordi vi i dag vet lite om hvor mye og hva slags tekstiler som blir kastet både i Norge og i andre land, har vi utviklet nye metoder. Bedre oversikt er nødvendig for å planlegge både for gjenbruk og gjenvinning av tekstilene. Metoden kan brukes i utvikling av virkemidler slik som utvidet produsentansvar (EPR), slik vi tidligere har vist i denne kronikken (forskersonen.no).
Tekstilene omfatter både avfall og det som på ulike måter gis til gjenbruk og derfor kaller vi det «kasserte tekstiler».
Vi sorterte totalt 3745 kg kasserte tekstiler fordelt slikt: 2181 kg hentet ut av restavfallskontainer ved tre ulike gjenvinningsstasjoner, 1182 kg donerte tekstiler og 382 kg husholdningsavfall (søppel). Tekstiler fra husholdningsavfallet er kraftig underrepresentert i analysene så langt. Derfor er tallene vi legger frem her vektet. Det er planlagt flere plukkanalyser av husholdningsavfall høsten 2022. Størstedelen av de utsorterte tekstilene var “Klær og tilbehør”. Den neststørste kategorien var “Tekstil – ikke klær”, som består av bæreprodukter, tekstiler til hjem og interiør, leker, hygienetekstiler, oppbevaring/emballasje og utstyr.
Mye klær og mest til barn
I den største kategorien «Klær og tilbehør» fant vi mest barneklær – hele 332 kg, nesten 18% av klærne. Det meste kom fra tekstiltårnene og var donert til UFF og Fretex med tanke på gjenbruk, men hele 126 kg var kastet i restavfallet enten i hjemmet eller på gjenvinningsstasjon. De andre store kategoriene var underdeler (bukser, shorts, skjørt), tynne overdeler (t-skjorter, topper) og tykke overdeler (gensere, cardigans). Igjen var mesteparten donert til UFF og Fretex, men nesten halvparten av de tynne overdelene og en tredjedel av de tykke overdelene og underdelene var blitt kastet og ville i dag endt opp i forbrenning. Andelen sko var størst i tekstilstrømmen fra restavfall på gjenvinningsstasjon. Hele 75% av alle skoene kom derifra.
65% av de kasserte tekstilene er helt eller delvis plast
Det var ikke store forskjeller i fiberinnhold mellom klær og andre tekstiler. Litt under halvparten av alle fibrene var syntetiske, rundt 5% var ull og ca. halvparten var andre, naturlige fibre. I dagens globale tekstilproduksjon er to tredjedeler (69%) av alle materialer som brukes til tekstiler syntetiske og under 1% ull. (se Changing Markets Foundation). Vi vet ikke nøyaktig hvordan norsk klesforbruk ser ut, men forventer mer ull enn globale gjennomsnitt. De kasserte tekstilene viser ikke sammensettingen av forbruket i dag, fordi mye av tekstilene er produsert for flere år siden da andelen av syntetiske materialer var mindre. Derfor er det sannsynlig at det syntetiske innholdet på tekstiler som går ut av bruk øke raskt de neste årene. I våre analyser var det bare 35% av tekstilene som ikke delvis var laget av plast (syntetiske tekstiler).
Mye bruksverdi igjen i klærne som kastes
Tekstilene fra gjenvinningsstasjon og tekstiltårn ble vurdert etter tilstand ut ifra om tekstilene var ødelagte eller ikke før de ble kastet. Mest brukbart er det i tekstiltårnene, men likevel ble bare rundt en tredjedel fra gjenvinningsstasjonene og litt over en femtedel fra tekstiltårnene ble vurdert som ødelagt. Det betyr ikke nødvendigvis at tekstilene har en gjenbruksverdi. Det må finnes noen som har ønsker om å bruke tekstilene for at de kan komme i bruk på nytt. For eksempel kan en jakke være hel og fin, men hvis den har påtrykt logo fra en bedrift, sportsklubb eller navn på tidligere eier så kan det være vanskeligere å finne noen som ønsker å bruke den. Vi vurderte ikke om de ødelagte tekstilene kunne fikses. Hvis for eksempel en glidelås var ødelagt i en bukse så ble buksen vurdert som ødelagt. Hvis en genser hadde en stor flekk så ble den også vurdert som ødelagt. Dermed kan flere av tekstilene som ble vurdert som ødelagte potensielt være fortsatt brukbare med enkel reparasjon eller vask og flekkfjerning.
Klær og tilbehør er mindre ødelagt enn andre tekstiler. I kategorien med tekstiler som ikke er klær er det ganske jevnt blant underkategoriene, litt over en tredjedel er ødelagt. Blant Klærne derimot er det større forskjeller. Sokker er oftest ødelagte mens “Tilbehør og Sport, fritid og arbeid” ligger på rundt en tredjedel ødelagt og resten har under en fjerdedel ødelagt. Dette har sammenheng med hvordan klær anskaffes. Sokker kjøpes oftere når det er tomt i skuffen, mens mye annet anskaffes fordi man har lyst på noe nytt og ikke fordi noe er slitt eller mangler.
Disse resultatene er foreløpige. Flere detaljer og sikrere tall vil komme i 2023. Vi ønsker også å gjennomføre flere analyser for å fange opp geografiske og sesongavhengige variasjoner bedre, samt sjekke fibermerkingen mot fiberinnhold. Vi mener plukkanalyser av kasserte tekstiler er viktige i oppbygging av kunnskap og politikk rund klær og andre tekstiler for å få ned miljøbelastninger og ønsker samarbeid med alle som kan bidra til at flere analyser kan gjennomføres.
Make the Label Count Campaign: Simon J. Clarke, Ingun G. Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Stephen G. Wiedemann.
Sustainability has become a priority objective for the European Union (EU). It is a key driver for policy development through the global leadership role the EU has taken in addressing climate change, decoupling economic growth from resource use, and the sustainable use of resources. The global supply of textiles has been recognized by the EU as a major source of emissions and resource use; the sector has become increasingly reliant on fossil feedstocks to supply synthetic fibres, and the textile industry has been roundly criticised for unsustainable and non-circular consumption patterns.
The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) system – which assesses a product’s environmental impact and provides consumers with information on that impact – has the potential to be paramount in directing the textile sector towards a sustainable system of production and consumption. However, the PEF system has not been designed to deliver the EU’s strategies and, without amendment, its application to the textiles sector risks undermining the EU’s laudable intent. The PEF system is designed to facilitate like-with-like comparisons, but assessment of textiles made from natural and synthetic fibres are not yet comparable because the impacts of forming natural fibres are fully accounted for, but omitted for fossil fuels. The single biggest sustainability issue for the textile industry is the growth in synthetic fibre production and the causally related rise in fast fashion. A PEF-derived comparison will not challenge the over-consumption of resources, and risks legitimising unsustainable consumption with an EU-backed green claim.
These limitations present a significant challenge to the delivery of both EU strategy and the PEF goal of providing fair comparisons of products based on their environmental credentials.
In combination, the characteristics of the textiles category, together with the limitations of PEF methodology, provide a strong argument for not comparing textiles made from renewable and non-renewable raw materials. However, achieving the EU Green Deal and circular economy objectives mandates a pragmatic approach; hence our analysis recommends methodological improvements to deliver EU environmental policy through fair comparisons of natural and synthetic fibre textiles in PEF. Addressing these limitations now will avoid the same problems arising when PEF is applied to other product categories that compare renewable and non-renewable raw materials, such as furniture and fuel.
The textile industry is characterized by global mass production and has an immense impact on the environment. One garment can travel around the world through an extensive value chain before reaching its final consumption destination. The consumer receives little information about how the item was produced due to a lack of policy regulation. In this article, we explore understandings of ‘local clothing’ and how the concept could be an alternative to the current clothing industry. The analysis is based on fifteen interviews with eighteen informants from Western Norway as part of the research project KRUS about Norwegian wool. Five ways of understanding local clothing were identified from the interviews: production, place-specific garments, local clothing habits, home-based production and local circulation. We lack a language with which to describe local clothing that covers local forms of production as an alternative to current clothing production. As such, the article highlights an important obstacle to reorganization: local clothing needs a vocabulary among the public, in politics and in the public sector in general, with which to describe the diverse production processes behind clothing and textiles and their material properties.
Human olfaction sense is one of the highly underestimated senses since historical times. Fortunately, this has changed in recent times, as the perception of odour or scent by people has received increasing attention through several research works from different scientific disciplines. Our sense of smell and scent affects our lives more than previously assumed, influencing how we think, act, and behave. Odours both evoke and create memories. The perception of odours is also culturally and situationally dependent. However, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the influence of odour or scent on an individual’s characteristics and odour studies are hindered by the lack of vocabulary. The effect of pleasant odour on the shopping behaviours of customers is one highly researched area, while very few studies have focused on body odour perception. Most of the time body odour is related to self-hygiene and cleanliness, but understanding about the complete social aspects behind odour perception by humans is still at an infant stage. This chapter reviews the current status of consumer research on body odour and environmental odour or scent perception. The chapter also addresses the role of textile materials on body odour perception.
Authors: Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Vilde Haugrønning
Consumers’ textile care practices today are characterized by frequent laundering. The importance of the removal of odours has increased, especially the smell of sweat. This chapter summarizes knowledge about removing odour from textiles. It provides information on suitable cleaning methods for different textile fibres and types of soils. The considered cleaning methods include laundering, stain removal, airing, hand wash, and professional cleaning methods. The cleaning result from laundering depends on water, washing temperature, length of washing cycle, types and amounts of laundry chemicals, and mechanical agitation applied. Textile material and type of soil that needs removal will determine the right mix of these factors.
Inherent fibre properties affect the soiling characteristics of garments. Comparisons of odours retained in textiles have shown that wool has the least intensive odour, followed by cotton, and synthetic polyester and polyamide garments have the most intense odour. Most textiles can be washed with water and detergents, which are more efficient in the removal of many odorous soils than dry-cleaning, but low-temperature laundering and/or lack of chemical disinfectants such as bleaches can contribute to odour build-up in textiles and in the washing machine. These aspects contribute to the environmental impacts of textiles.