Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

AUAS delves into the Dutch wardrobe

Research aims to reduce the Dutch clothing mountain

19 Sep 2017 09:07 | Communication

What exactly does the average Dutch wardrobe contain? How often do we buy new items – and do we then actually wear them? Or do they just lie around in the bottom of the wardrobe gathering dust? The survey Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain carried out by Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) found that a Dutch wardrobe typically contains 173 items of clothing, of which no less than fifty items have not been worn during the past year. Which is a shame, as it means we are making a lot of unnecessary purchases, and that’s bad for the environment.

Little information

Figures from market research institute GfK have also revealed that on average the Dutch buy 46 new items of clothing, shoes and accessories every year. In addition, information from CSR Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management shows that every year we throw out forty items. Are these items we just no longer wear? Or are they so worn out they are falling to bits, because we have worn them so often? It turned out that little information was available on the clothing mountain in the Netherlands.

Foto: Hans van de Woerd

Field research

Which is why six parties decided to undertake a small piece of field research. Saxion, CSR Netherlands, Sympany, Circle Economy and Modint cooperated in this study, alongside AUAS. The researchers interviewed collectors and sorters of textile waste, and analysed 200 kilos of clothing waste. This involved sorting by type of clothing (man/woman/child/unisex), by colour, by type of material and by the condition of the clothing (rewearables/non-rewearables). The researchers also carried out a closer inspection of the wardrobes of fifty individuals. Although this group is not representative of the whole of the Dutch population, the results nevertheless give an interesting impression of an ‘average’ wardrobe.

Just for show

Of the 173 items in the average wardrobe, no less than fifty are ‘just for show’. The researchers conclude that women, young adults and people who live in the big cities have more clothing than men, older people and people who live in villages. Of the forty items of clothing thrown away by each person every year, only nine are suitable for re-use. The rest either no longer fulfils the quality requirements or ends up in the domestic waste.

Foto: Hans van de Woerd

Visualising the wardrobe

How can we improve our relationship to the environment and reduce the volume of the clothing mountain? According to the research’s recommendations, consumers and the clothing industry must be made more aware of the fact that fewer items of clothing contributes to a better environment. In addition, consumers must visualise their wardrobes more: what does it already contain (and so what do I no longer need to buy)? The researchers also advise taking a new look at our clothing. For example, making new combinations with existing items. Shopkeepers could also add second-hand clothing to their offer. By promoting second-hand purchases items can be given a second life and will less frequently end up adding to waste.

Irene Maldini: "aanbevelingen zijn laagdrempelig en effectief"

Low-threshold and effective

“We hope that the research will have a positive impact on the clothing mountain in the Netherlands”, says researcher Irene Maldini from AUAS’ Fashion, Research and Technology research group. Maldini, who is further studying the possibilities of reducing the Dutch clothing mountain for her doctoral research, considers these recommendations to be low-threshold and effective. “This is one way of effectively combatting pollution of the environment.”