Why the British Heart Foundation are waging war on throwaway fashion culture

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The Euston-based charity aren’t just focused on the fight against heart disease


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For over 50 years, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has been busy pioneering research and the discovery of new treatments that go on to transform the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. But at some point along the way, their impressive fundraising efforts also took on a secondary good cause, all of their own.

“We do all we can to turn people’s quality unwanted clothes, books, furniture and household items into funds that can be spent on life-saving heart research,” says Allison Swaine-Hughes, BHF retail operations director.

“This inevitably also prevents thousands of tonnes of unwanted goods going in to landfill every year. Last year alone, we turned 65,000 tonnes of generously donated items in to £25 million for our research.”

Trotting out eye-popping stats like that, it’s easy to see what a positive real-world impact the charity is having on waste reduction, as well as revealing their admirable fundraising skills, too. Yet other sets of statistics expose that all this activity still only scratches at the tip of a very big, troublesome, mounting pile of needless waste.

The organisation is now charged with a twin-pronged cause. Photo: PR
“Our statistics show that half the UK population say they ‘don’t have time’ to donate their unwanted clothes and household goods to charity,” continues Allison. “This is particularly concerning when you consider the frequency with which people are finding enough time to add to their wardrobe, with 43% of the population admitting to buying three new items a month.”

So, now fighting for the twin-pronged causes of raising more cash for their vital research, while also making an even bigger dent in the UK’s waste mountain, BHF have kick-started initiatives to make it super easy to donate, rather than dump.

“People say they don’t have the time simply because they don’t realise how easy it’s become to donate to charity,” argues Allison. “So we now offer a totally free collections service for both clothes and furniture (see details below) and issue thousands of free bags for people to fill up at home.

You can also walk in and donate unwanted items at our 730 shops nationwide, including the one just up from our office (find it at 65 Camden High Street), which has generated over £2m of funding over the last ten years, all thanks to the generosity of locals.”

Half the population ‘don’t have time’ to donate their unwanted clothes to charity. Photo: PR
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), virtually no clothes need ever go in the bin, items can always be reused or recycled, (and yes, that includes your old pants and socks). Obviously charities like the BHF are most keen on quality items, but they work closely with recycling organisations, and if clothes don’t sell in one location, they will rotate them in several shops in order to find a buyer.

The enthusiasm for more donations shows just how effective this policy is, as charities are always on the lookout for more stock. When you consider that every pound raised goes towards research into beating coronary heart disease, the UK’s single biggest killer, chucking out this potentially life-saving goldmine from your wardrobe should be unthinkable. Luckily, this fundraising zeal is making huge strides in reminding us all of that.

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Clothes waste stats

100%

from 2000 to 2014, global clothing production has doubled

60%

more items of clothing are now bought every year by the average person

1.7bn

items of clothing hang unused in British wardrobes

300,000

tonnes still goes into landfill

320,000

tonnes of clothing recycled each year

15,000

tonnes of this is from the efforts of the BHF alone

49%

of Londoners admit to throwing clothes away because they can’t be bothered to donate them

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Got a pile of clothes you never wear gathering dust? Of course you do! Book a free collection online here or call 0808 250 0030 and prevent your cast-offs going to landfill while helping BHF raise vital funds for research that might help you or a loved one in the future. More info on the donation bags campaign is here. And head here for loads on how to tackle the textile waste problem.

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