The average Hong Kong resident owns nearly 100 items of clothing, rarely wears 16% of them… but still goes shopping 10 times a year.

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These are just a few of the findings from a recent survey by TNS Global market research – revealing our unsustainable shopping habits, and just how prevalent such disposable consumer mentalities have become in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Of the 1,000 Hong Kong people interviewed, only 27% had repaired their clothes in the past two months, and 40% admitted to discarding clothes over recycling them.

The level of overconsumption was most apparent in the amount of resources wasted on clothes that we barely, if ever, use. For most people, 16% amounts to about 15 garments, individually costing about HK$100. That means each person wastes about HK$1,500 a year on clothes we rarely wear, not to mention the needless chemicals and energy burn that go into producing those garments.

Multiply this by the population of Hong Kong, and you’ve got HK$3.9 billion – and an immeasurable environmental impact – used up on items ultimately destined for a toxic, festering landfill.


Activists in Taipei urge Zara to Detox in 2012

Greenpeace East Asia set out to draw attention to this mindless, excessive shopping, and the environmental consequences associated with it, through performance art. A 2.5-metre ‘Giant Girl’, adorned with recycled clothing and shopping bags carrying the message ‘100 Clothes But Nothing to Wear?’ traversed the streets of one of Causeway Bay recently, and caught the eyes and minds of many of the surrounding shoppers.


‘Giant Girl’ overconsumption action in Hong Kong

‘I have 100 pieces of clothing, but I still feel like I have nothing to wear’… Is that really what people think? It would seem so. But consumers can have an incredible impact just by being aware of their shopping habits and making a change. Try shopping for alternatives such as wearing second-hand clothing, repairing worn items, and consider upcycling rather than discarding old clothes.

The government needs to do more to develop sustainable fashion in Hong Kong, and take inspiration from initiatives like the EU’s 2015 European Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. By 2019, this aims to divert over 90,000 tonnes of clothing waste away from landfills and incinerators across Europe, every year.

Awareness and recognition is the first step toward positive, tangible change. So let’s start adjusting our habits, and spreading this message to anyone that will listen.

Bonnie Tang is a campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia in Hong Kong