Consumers’ clothing disposal behaviour – a synthesis of research results

Kirsi Laitala


Consumer decisions on clothing disposal are important from an environmental point of view, as they have an effect on the lifespan of clothing, as well as the potential for reuse and recycling. This article summarizes what is known about consumers’ clothing disposal behaviour based on empirical literature published during the past 30 years. The goal of this synthesis is to integrate empirical research, find generalizable results, evaluate the used research methods and identify central issues for future research. Most clothing disposal studies concentrate on disposal channels, behavioural motivations, disposal reasons and demographics of consumers that behave in specified ways.

Many consumers prefer to deliver clothing for reuse rather than to dispose of them, but convenience is paramount. Common disposal reasons for apparel were wear and tear, poor fit and fashion or boredom, in addition to lack of storage space. Survey methods are most common, which indicates the need of other research designs that preferably include the clothing items in method triangulation. Studied samples are dominated by young women and students, and research on more heterogeneous samples is needed.

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