A couple of days ago I tackled an arduous task I had been putting off for weeks; clearing out my wardrobe. After a recent shopping trip it was fit to burst and I decided something just had to give. First to go were jumpers and t-shirts which had been so well worn they looked old and tired, but they had a good innings though so I felt no guilt when I stuffed them into a bin bag. Others had barely been worn; mainly because of impulse fashion decisions that once home I soon realised had no place in my wardrobe. For some reason I tend to keep on to these items as if my tastes will suddenly change and I will want to wear them but inevitably this never happens.

I just knew I couldn’t throw these barely worn clothes out; surely someone could make use of my unwanted, random purchases? The term ‘shwopping’ suddenly came to my rescue; after seeing the word appear on social networks I decided to do a bit of research. The clothes swapping experience isn’t new to me, while I was at university they were a great way to breath a bit of life into my wardrobe and get rid of unwanted garments, but they had always been small local events. The interesting thing about ‘Shwopping’ is that high street store Marks and Spencer are behind it, launching a national campaign alongside Oxfam to get people to think differently about the clothes they would so readily discard.

According to Marks and Spencer, almost 10,000 items of clothing go to landfill every five minutes and they are asking you help cut this number by taking your clothes into the store when you’re going shopping. The hope is that this one-in-one-out policy with clothes will become second nature to people and completely change the way we think about shopping.  Once you leave your clothes at your local M&S store the items then begin their new life being recycled in different ways. They will be sold in Oxfam charity shops or shipped abroad to communities in need of clothing, or they may be restyled by designers to appear on the high street again. Thankfully, even those clothes I had completely worn out could be put to good use. If the items can’t be worn again the materials may be reprocessed to become mattress filling or carpet underlay, so nothing goes to waste and nothing ends up in landfill. This is something I had never realised.

And whilst this shows that the high street are finally taking responsibility for the disposable clothes culture we have all become so familiar with, the internet has been leading the way. Websites such as Big Wardrobe allow users to upload pictures of their unwanted clothes and others can offer items to swap to receive them. Designer items often appear on the site so it can be a great way of picking up big labels for less. The website isn’t restricted to swapping though as money can be offered, so whether it differs very much from Ebay or not is up to you and whether you’re prepared to part with cash or stick to strictly swaps.

The high street is finally realising the potential that old clothes can have, which is something us shoppers have realised for a while now. Vintage anyone? Whilst it’s always nice to have something in return for giving up your clothes, some things just aren’t worth swapping. The realisation of how much material goes to landfill shocked me and made me take a bag of old wears along with me on my latest shopping trip.

It would be great if more shops could get involved so the campaign can have an even bigger presence on our high street. I do worry that it’s younger people who change their clothes most often and Marks and Spencer may not be somewhere they visit regularly.

Stereotypes aside, hats off to Marks and Spencer for leading the way to change and highlighting the massive issue of what our throwaway culture actually means for the planet. Showing the public that just because you don’t want it anymore doesn’t mean it should be destined for the rubbish dump.