Clothing rental as potentially harmful
Like me, you're probably wondering what makes renting clothes worse for our environment than putting them in the bin. Well, renting was found to produce the highest amount of CO2 emissions due to the methods used to transport the clothes. By nature, renting requires the product to take two trips: the travel to the customer's house and the travel back to the rental company. As such, the rental scenario had the highest CO2 emissions for delivery and subsequently overall. Limitations of study
However, it needs to be highlighted that the study assumes a couple of things about the rental process. It assumes that:
1. The customer drives to the rental company to collect and return the item.
2. The end-of-life scenario for renting is incineration. Transportation
If every rental company did in fact require customers to use a car fuelled with petrol to collect and return the item this does add up to a hefty amount of CO2, but this is just not the case…
Many rental companies send items by post using carbon neutral DPD
and Girl Meets Dress
) and Green Last Mile
). Plus, even if your orders are sent via Royal Mail (in the UK), it's likely much better to have a hundred parcels in one van than a hundred cars driving to a store to pick up a parcel. Plus, Royal Mail deliver using electric vehicles, bikes and even on foot. In fact, Royal Mail has been named the "most carbon conscious delivery company
" in the UK. Also, even if a customer did go to pick up the items themselves, they may use public transport, walk, or cycle to the store. End-of-life treatment
The study assumes that all rented clothes get incinerated at the end of their life, but this is not an accurate assumption. Rental company Circos certainly do not throw all their clothes into the incinerator after they've been used. Their goal is to make everything they do circular and, once a Circos product is at the end of its life and taken out of circulation, they collaborate with their partners to create a new product. And, for HURR Collective's
end-of-life treatment, they have partnered with the second-hand fashion app Depop so that when items are no longer available to rent they'll be added to Depop to give them "a chance to find their forever homes". We also spoke to Onloan
who enthusiastically shared details of their resale site Offloan
where they sell their preloved stock that is looking for a forever home. They also mentioned that they upcycle any pieces they can't sell and would love to partner with a fashion school to do this in the future. So, it's safe to say the end-of-life treatment for rented clothes is not categorically incineration!