Renting clothes is worse for the planet than just throwing them away

A new study has revealed the harmful environmental impacts of clothes shares, from transportation to upkeep

By now, we’re all familiar with the overwhelming, planet-harming amount of waste that fashion produces every year. In an attempt to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment, over the past few years fashion rental services have popped up, seemingly an answer to the problem. 

However, a new study published by Environmental Research Letters suggests that renting clothes is actually worse for than environment than just throwing them away. After researching a variety of different ‘scenarios’ for clothing – including recycling, reselling, and renting – the team behind the study found that renting was the worst option for the environment due to the transportation to and from the various customers and dry cleaning in-between. 

Of all the options, the best by far was increasing the number of times the clothing is worn before throwing it away. Sounds simple, but research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that while clothing production continues to increase – it has more than doubled in the past 15 years – the average number of times garments are being worn has decreased by 36 per cent. 

It’s not all bad news though, with the researchers suggesting that fashion rental can be done in a way that is slightly better if you use low-carbon modes of transportation and stock items that can be worn for a longer amount of time.