Charity shops in the UK save their councils £27m a year by diverting clothes from landfill, research has suggested.
A report from think tank Demos found charity shops recycled or reused 331,000 tonnes of textiles in 2015/16, which would otherwise have been sent to landfill.
Using the 2015 standard landfill tax rate of £82.60 per tonne, Demos calculates that charity shops saved councils over £27m in 2015/16 through avoided disposal costs.
It also estimated that recycling and reusing the clothes instead of sending them to landfill saved 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The report adds that a fall in the rag price from an average 45 pence to 37 pence per kilo between 2014 and 2016 means that charity retailers are more likely to reuse clothes they receive rather than sell them to textile recyclers in future.
Improved employment prospects
Researchers surveyed 484 charity shop managers and 192 volunteers, ran a national poll of the public, held interviews with charity shop staff and analysed five case studies to contribute to the report.
Two-thirds of volunteers said they believed their role had improved their employment prospects, made them more confident, improved self-esteem and enabled them to gain new skills.
However, over half of the public that responded to Demos’ polling associated charity shops with high street decline, and exactly half said a healthy high street should contain fewer charity shops.
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Demos researcher Peter Harrison-Evans said: “Our research shows that the charity retail sector adds value to local communities across a range of environmental, social and economic impact areas.
“Despite this it seems clear that the sector still faces somewhat of an image problem, with exactly half of those polled wanting to see fewer charity shops on the high street.
“That said, Demos finds that this view is strongly mediated by the use of charity shops, and also demographic factors - with younger people far more likely to see them as valuable assets in their area."
Charity Retail Association chief executive Robin Osterley said: “From environmental benefit and getting people back into work to improving the confidence and well-being of the more vulnerable members of our society, charity shops continue to give far reaching benefits to their local communities.
“In addition, this report makes it clear that a volunteering revolution would not only benefit the sector but communities all over the country. We are taking up the report’s recommendation to launch a sector-wide campaign to broaden engagement in volunteering at charity shops.”