Hongkongers love buying clothes but nearly one-fifth of items they purchase are never or seldom worn.
The unused clothes amount to around HK$3.9 billion annually, according to Greenpeace. The conservation group interviewed 2,000 people in Hong Kong and Taiwan in January about their spending habits as well as 1,000 parents to examine what their children wore.
The study found that Hongkongers from the 1970s, '80s and '90s generations have, on average, 94 pieces of clothing while respondents in Taiwan have on average 75 items, 20 percent less.
About half of the Hong Kong respondents would dump the clothes they wear less than twice with the total reaching 8.7 million items, mostly T-shirts and shoes.
It is estimated that 1,400 T-shirts are disposed of every minute. Only 62 percent would choose to recycle their clothes, 10 percentage points fewer than in Taiwan.
Hong Kong women have, on average, 109 pieces of clothing, 20 of which are worn less than twice. Men have 77 items on average, with 10 worn less than twice.
More than half, 56 percent, said they threw away clothes because they did not fit, 47 percent because of wear and tear and 44 percent due to changes in fashion.
A 2.5-meter-tall Greenpeace giant wearing dozens of clothes went to Causeway Bay yesterday to raise awareness about overbuying. Greenpeace urged people to "Buy Smart, Buy Less" and to embrace a sustainable, fashion lifestyle.
Parents, on average, spent about HK$9,600 on children's clothes, more than that spent on an adult. One-third would not consider buying secondhand clothes, with half blaming hygiene. Used clothing was a no-no with more than half saying they never bought secondhand or refurbished clothes.
Greenpeace campaigner Bonnie Tang Man-lam said the problem is not the low recycling rate of clothes but Hong Kong people's habit of overconsumption.
"We encourage the public to be aware of their shopping habits and to try shopping alternatives such as wearing secondhand clothing, repairing worn items, and considering up-cycling rather than discarding old clothes," Tang said.
She said chainstores can launch recycling campaigns for their clothes for up-cycling, with H & M and Marks & Spencer currently carrying out such campaigns.