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Executive Summary-Improving-sustainability-used clothing (XB-E414)

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The rise of fast fashion, marked by rapid turnover of collections, has led to a sevenfold increase in the global trade of used clothing in the last four decades. With more than 80% of all clothing purchased globally (62% in the EU) being disposed of as general garbage, which is incinerated or landfilled, this represents a massive waste of resources, causing severe environmental and health impacts. Every year, fast fashion produces around 92 million tonnes of waste.

At the end of these global chains of the garment and footwear sector, a whole new market has developed, almost invisible to the eyes of the citizens of the most consuming countries: the used clothes market.

In this context, in 2023, the United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe (ECE) and for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) conducted a global study on used clothing flows and the business models driving them, with a focus on Europe as an origin and Chile as a destination. The study includes the results of fieldwork undertaken in the second-hand clothing markets of the Tarapacá region of Chile. It aims to formulate policy recommendations that improve the economic, social, and environmental outcomes of the global trade in used clothes.

The joint report (ECE/TRADE/484), the very first report on the topic signed by the United Nations, contains an in-depth analysis and offers policy recommendations to the industry, exporting and importing countries, to remedy this situation.