Centre for Behaviour Change


Extending the lifecycle of clothes during Covid-19

19 April 2022

Two studies carried out with the Centre for Behaviour Change examined factors affecting the purchase, repair, repurpose and disposal of clothes by people in the UK before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clothes hanging on a rail

Preserving resources and minimising waste is a key policy commitment set out by the UK Government. In the UK, although the average lifecycle of clothing items is 2.2 years, approximately 30% of clothes are used for less than a year, leading to an estimated £140 million in landfills. 

To better understand the factors which encourage or prevent people in the UK from extending the lifetime of their clothes, two survey studies were carried out with a representative sample of the public:


Extending Clothing Lifecycle and Enhancing Disposal Methods

Researcher: Shahd AbdelMohsen

Citation and link to report: 
AbdelMohsen, S. (2022, April 14). Extending clothing lifecycle and enhancing disposal methods for a UK consumer sample. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/rhtmu 

This research investigated what motivates those who are not environmentally conscious to use a clothing item for longer, and sustainably dispose of it, using the consumer decision process model and dual-systems theory. Participants answered survey items about the attributes of clothing products which they value (such as material quality and trendiness) and a linear mixed modelling approach was used to examine how these predict sustainable clothing consumption, as well as the role of the Covid-19 pandemic in changing habits. 

The study found that people who highly value material quality are more likely to highly value a long clothing lifecycle, sustainably dispose of their clothes, use clothing for  longer and repair and repurpose  more frequently. People in middle income brackets were least likely to repair and repurpose their clothes, while those in the top and bottom income brackets were more likely to. Participants who valued trendiness were less likely to value a long lifecycle, although this did not necessarily translate into actually disposing of clothes faster. During the Covid-19 pandemic, some participants experienced disruption to their habits around impulsive purchasing, but for people who already had a low level of sustainable behaviour this led to them engaging in even more unsustainable behaviour. The correspondence between people's actual behaviour and their self-perception of behaving sustainably varied between men and women.

Policy implications: 

  • Labelling clothes could help consumers to identify the product attributes that matter to them that also have a positive impact on the sustainability of product life cycle and disposal method.
  • Future interventions on extending lifecycle and enhancing disposal shoulddivide consumer segments based on gender.
  • As for interventions targeting repairing and repurposing, consumer segments arebetter divided by income.


Barriers and Enablers to Clothing Repair and Repurpose

Researcher: Lisa Zhang

Citation and link to report: 
Zhang, L., & Hale, J. (2022, April 15). Barriers and Enablers to Clothing Repair and Repurpose in UK Citizens. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/jb8sw

This study investigated barriers and enablers to clothing repair and repurpose, defined as  mending  damaged  clothes,  altering  poorly  fitting  clothes,  and  upcycling  or refashioning  unwanted  clothes. The research applied  an  interdisciplinary  framework known as the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW), which provides a structured approach to achieving behaviour change in support of policy objectives. Given the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this study also investigated whether COVID-19 has acted as a ‘moment of change’ in encouraging clothing repair and repurpose.

Repair and repurpose was found to be relatively infrequent among UK citizens, withthe majority engaging in the behaviour every six months or less often. COVID-19 had no significant impact on this. The main barriers to repair and repurpose concerned skills (lack  of  skills),  environmental  context  and  resources (poor  product  design, competing  influence  of  fast  fashion,  unaffordability  of  repair  services),  and  identity (lack  of  identity).  The  key enablers  concerned  knowledge (awareness of fashion’s environmental  impact),  memory,  attention  and  decision  processes (ability  to  focus during  DIY  tasks), social  influences  (dynamic  norms), beliefs  about  consequences (beliefs about benefits of repair and repurpose), emotion (attachment to clothing), and reinforcement (routine and habit).

Policy implications:

  • Awareness campaigns will continue to be an important part of any intervention for repair and repurpose, but greater active participation and collaboration is needed from businesses, retailers, and local  and national authorities.
  • Awareness campaigns must be combined with environmental restructuring and enablement to increase opportunity.
  • Examples of environmental restructuring could include offering free services and kits, and extending 'right to repair' laws or the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme.
  • Examples of enablement could include supporting community initiatives, such as repair cafes, which may also strengthen social norms around repairing and repurposing clothes.


This research was supervised by Dr Jo Hale at the Centre for Behaviour Change through the UCL Behavioural Insights Exchange.