The importance of supporting second-hand

24th September 2021

Article by Carmen Browne

We are in the midst of an environmental crisis. Plastic continues to be dumped into the sea, litter is still chucked into bushes and left to be taken away by the wind, and most companies still aren’t taking responsibility for their plastic use.

But are some organisations doing more than we give them credit for? What about the efforts of second-hand charity shops and online retailers? Second-hand shopping ensures that objects are reused, as opposed to being thrown away.

One of the biggest retailers of second-hand DVDs, games, mobile phones and consoles, provides an alternative to people disposing of their no longer loved films and games. These items are exchanged for cash or a voucher that can be used again in the shop. Obviously, the motive for a lot of customers who shop here is to buy second-hand DVDs and games at a much lower price than purchasing them brand new. Even if the environment may not be crossing many minds here, a beneficial impact is still being made. And this second-hand retailer is just one example.

CEX store interior; rows of shelving
Image credit

The same can be said for charity shops, especially when it comes to clothing. The steady stream of discarded ‘quick fashion’ is having a massively detrimental impact on our planet. According to Clothes Aid, 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothes are thrown away each year in the UK. That equates to around £140 million worth of used but still wearable clothing.

Can you picture a long line of people willingly throwing away a grand total of £140 million? I can’t and I don’t think you can either. So why have this attitude towards clothing? I don’t think many people see it as the same principle, which is a problem when it comes to the environment.

£140 million would pay the salaries of 4500 nurses for one year, each earning £31,095

Thankfully, charity shops have given us a solution. Over 100,000 tonnes of clothing are sold for reuse or donated to charity shops each year in the UK, states These figures are a great indicator that people may be becoming more aware of their clothing habits.

If charity shops were to become more of a go-to when buying clothes, it would cut a lot of the materials, cost and emissions that go into the mass production of clothing. 600 litres of reused clothes reduce 2250 kilos of Co2 Transmission, while 3.6 billion litres of water will be saved and 144 trees will be planted, states

Online retailers for second-hand clothes are on the rise too. Vinted, for example, have a community of more than 37 million members. The Clear Out is another one who also collects any sized amounts of unwanted clothing and then retails it, provided it is in a sellable and appropriate condition. With many people now having unlimited access to the internet and with the appeal of these retailers through frequent advertisements, hopefully we might just see a rise of people shopping second-hand.

Second-hand shopping is a great solution to a grand-scale environmental catastrophe and a good place to start.