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SECOND HAND COUNTSMarket Survey on Second Hand Clothes

Why this market survey / market analysis?

Second Hand is sustainability in a nutshell. Law makers are increasingly aware of this and the promotion of re-use has come on the agenda, both in the EU, in the EU member states and on the local level.

The waste hierarchy, adopted many years ago, gives priority to re-use over recycling, and the EU waste rules of 2018 make separate collection of textiles mandatory in all EU member states from 2025. Both the EU Green Deal (2019) and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (2020) put a focus on textiles. In 2021, the EU is to adopt an EU Textiles Strategy. EU member states are adapting national laws to EU rules.

SECOND HAND COUNTS – a Market Survey on Second Hand Clothes in the EU – aims to provide the facts needed for decision making. Facts about second hand clothes (SHC) in general and country by country. For all EU countries including UK, plus Norway and Switzerland.

Facts presented in this survey, country by country, include:

  • New clothes available (tons and kg/person)
  • SHC collected (tons and kg/person) and capture quota
  • SHC import and export over the past many years (tons and kg/person)
  • Expenses for clothing (euro/person)

General topics covered in this survey include:

  • global exports of SHC from the four main regions since 2003
  • Percentage of inhabitants not able to afford new clothes and shoes
  • SHC collected in % of new clothes available – overview
  • SHC collected kg/person – overview
  • Percentage of people who say they have bought second-hand products (e.g. clothes or electronics) in the past 6 months
  • Percentage of people who agree to the statement “Second-hand clothing should be promoted more (e.g. through tax cuts)”


  • The SHC sector is of a considerable size and has been growing over years. While global sales of new clothes have doubled over 15 years, global exports of SHC have tripled over 15 years.
  • Though there are big differences between EU member states as to which main activities are performed in the sector, all except one saw increasing levels of activities in the sector.
  • National collection quota range from less than 15% to more than 70%.
  • Millions of EU citizens cannot afford to buy new clothes and therefore depend on SHC, with 42% being the highest score.
  • More research is needed – for a number of countries there are no figures yet for the amounts collected and thus no figures for the capture quota. It would also be good to establish the number of second hand shops in each country, their turnover in terms of money or pieces, the number of tons sorted in each country, the re-use quota and the number of jobs in the sector. Last not least there is a need for regular updates.

Policy recommendations

  • Reduce VAT on sale of second hand clothes and repair services
  • Set targets for collection, re-use and recycling at all levels (European, national and local)
  • Set targets for durability and repairability of new clothes, ban incineration of unsold goods and enforce use of all new items
  • Make sure that EPR schemes (Extended Producers Responsibility) support the top of the EU waste hierarchy (re-use above recycling)
  • Secure appropriate funding for collection and sorting, for instance for the treatment of the clothes that can not be re-used
  • Promote codes of conduct for collection, sorting and sale
  • Promote transparency in the sector
  • Support communication to citizens about re-use, repair and recycling
  • Support dialogue and collaboration across the sector

Get involved!

This is an ongoing project. We look forward to your contributions.


For sources and definitions see page “general topics”