Tackling Fashion’s Throwaway Culture: Ireland Launches Campaign to Curb High Frequency Clothing Purchases

Government initiative aims to reduce unsustainable buying habits and promote sustainable fashion choices.

In an effort to combat the unsustainable consumer behavior of high frequency clothing shoppers, the Irish government is set to launch a public campaign in 2024. The campaign will specifically target individuals who purchase clothes multiple times a week, encouraging them to reduce their consumption and adopt more sustainable behaviors. With over a fifth of Irish people falling into this category and half of them admitting to buying items they never wear, the campaign aims to address the environmental impact of fast fashion and promote a more conscious approach to clothing consumption.

The Rise of High Frequency Shoppers:

High frequency shoppers, often referred to as “serial shoppers,” are individuals who enjoy browsing the latest fashion trends and do not view clothes shopping as a chore. While the majority of these shoppers are women under the age of 50, 35% are men under the age of 34. They are highly influenced by sales and prioritize them over recommendations from friends, family, or social media. However, their frequent purchases contribute to the culture of disposability, where clothes are seen as easily replaceable and lack value beyond their immediate trendiness.

The Problem of Textile Consumption Volume:

Ireland stands out as one of the largest consumers and disposers of textiles in the European Union. On average, an Irish person consumes 53 kg of textiles per year and discards 35 kg, compared to the European average of 26 kg and 12 kg, respectively. While high frequency shoppers may prioritize ethical and sustainably-sourced clothing, the sheer volume of their purchases outweighs any potential positive impact. Approximately 110,000 tonnes of textiles in Ireland end up in waste-to-energy plants or landfills each year, highlighting the urgent need for change in both industry practices and individual buying patterns.

The Importance of Buying Less:

Recycling alone is not a sufficient solution to the textile waste problem. Only 1% of clothes globally are recycled into new clothing, with most recycling efforts resulting in downcycling, such as using old clothing fibers for insulation. Solene Schirrer, textile waste campaign lead from the environmental NGO VOICE, emphasizes the need to not only buy better but also buy less. By reducing the overall volume of clothing purchased, consumers can contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry. However, confusion surrounding what constitutes sustainability remains a challenge, making it difficult for consumers to assess brands’ claims.

Sustainability vs. Greenwashing:

Consumers often struggle to discern the authenticity of brands’ sustainability claims. For example, the use of recycled polyester, which is derived from plastic bottles, may seem like a positive step. However, this form of “open loop” recycling does not address the issue of waste textiles and can ultimately lead to landfill. A preferable approach is “closed loop” recycling, which promotes circularity by reusing products for the same purpose, thus reducing the need for virgin resources. Initiatives such as VOICE Ireland’s upcoming website and the EU’s planned “greenwashing” directive aim to provide consumers with clearer information and guidelines for making sustainable fashion choices.

Data-Driven Policy and Interventions:

The Irish government’s efforts to tackle fashion’s throwaway culture are supported by data from the National Textiles Survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The survey, carried out in 2021 and published this year, provides valuable insights into high frequency purchasers and their impact on textile waste. The government aims to move Ireland towards a circular economy, where products are kept in circulation through reuse, repair, and recycling. The establishment of a Textile Advisory Group and the planned awareness campaign are key steps in realizing this vision.

Embracing Sustainable Alternatives:

Despite their high consumption rates, high frequency shoppers are also more likely to engage in sustainable fashion practices. They show a greater willingness to rent clothes and purchase second-hand garments. Solene Schirrer encourages fashion-conscious shoppers to explore these options, as well as charity shops and items made from natural fibers like Irish linen or wool. Investing in well-designed, durable pieces that can be worn multiple times and participating in the circular economy can contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry.


The Irish government’s upcoming public campaign targeting high frequency clothing shoppers reflects a growing recognition of the urgent need to address the environmental impact of fast fashion. By encouraging individuals to reduce their clothing consumption and adopt more sustainable behaviors, Ireland aims to move towards a circular economy and combat the culture of disposability. However, the success of these initiatives will depend on clear and transparent information provided to consumers, as well as the commitment of both industry and individuals to prioritize sustainable practices. Ultimately, it is through collective efforts that we can create a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.

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