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Rolls of fabric on a table

Photo credit: Natalie Gerber

The circular economy includes all activity that works to eliminate waste by finding value in materials that can be recycled, reused and resold. With the global fashion and textile industry having one of the largest environmental footprints, second-hand clothing plays a key role in the circular economy.

“The circular economy starts at the point of purchase and considers where an item goes when you’re done with it. If an item still has value, it’s lifespan can be lengthened by reselling it rather than sending it to a landfill.” explained Lauryn Vaughn, who’s Calgary-based, resale clothing business, The Upside, is centred on the idea of the circular economy.

Canada’s second-hand economy was valued at $28.5 billion in 2017 with clothing, accessories and shoes as the most exchanged items according to Kijiji’s 2018 Second-Hand Economy Index. On average, Canadians earned $1,134 from selling second-hand goods and saved $825 on their purchases.

Alberta was particularly active within the second-hand economy with the highest participation rate in Canada and total second-hand spending of $4.4 billion in 2017. The second-hand economy also supported over 46,000 jobs in Alberta.

Vaughn suggests that strategically shopping for high quality items with retained value is beneficial because they can later be reintroduced into the circular economy.

 “People’s views on resale have changed and will continue to change as people look more to value, variety and quality over quantity in their wardrobes,” said Vaughn. “Choosing rental or resale fashion over fast fashion is a realistic and tangible difference that people can make in their lives to lessen their environmental impact.”

As ethical and sustainable fashion becomes increasingly important to consumers, the size of the resale clothing industry is expected to surpass the fast fashion industry within the next decade. According to thred UP’s 2019 Resale Report, this means that the resale fashion industry will soon be valued at over $50 billion.

Vaughn says that this speaks to the resilience of the circular economy.

 “Whether the economy is up or down, people don’t stop shopping, but they do think twice before walking into a department store and paying full price.”

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