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Why I'm Shwopping

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I love clothes. As many of you will suspect I love dressing up and going out. I am sure that I am as guilty as the next person for hoarding and thinking, "oh I will get another year out of that item". Then it sits at the back of the closet alone for another year. I think I will be lonesome if I throw out my old coat or jumper. This new Shwopping campaign is helping me with these little daily dramas.

So just what is this Shwopping idea and why am I so interested in all your old shirts, shorts, bras and underwear? This was one of the first things I was thinking when Marc Bolland and M&S called me. In a nutshell it is about doing something good with our old throw offs. Maybe it is a little subversive because we are encouraging you to keep on shopping but to do your bit for the environment at the same time by Shwopping. (I want you to read the word as many times a possible so it is in the dictionary in your brain).

When M&S approached me I was amazed to learn that in the UK every five minutes 10,000 items of clothing are thrown into landfill. This is 500,000 million tonnes of clothing every year. Yes, we live in an age of fast fashion where we buy more than we need and we hoard more and more. Yes, we should all be cutting down on the amount that we consume but while we are doing that we can do something really good too.

So what is Shwopping all about and what do I want people to do?

Put simply I am asking people to open their hearts, their minds and their wardrobes. Remember we used to just throw away plastic bottles. Now we recycle them without even thinking about it. We need to do the same with clothing. Bring in something old; buy something new. Swap and shop.

I think that the idea that we stop hoarding or wasting clothes and we can simply exchange or Shwop them is brilliant - very innovative.

The whole sense of recycling something old into something new isn't alien. Most of us wouldn't dream of putting a glass bottle in the bin - would we? So why do we waste the clothes that we've loved? The dress that you wore on your first date; your child's school uniform; the suit you wore to that crucial job interview. Our clothes have memories, they carry our history and it's our duty to keep these alive, to give someone else the chance to love them again. I want throwing clothes away to be as frowned upon as binning glass, and Shwopping to become as normal as putting a bottle in a bottle bank.

M&S has always taken a bold stance on important issues - like the introduction of carrier bag charging - and this is another example of them leading the way. I believe that people want to do the right thing and they look to businesses that they trust, like M&S, to make it easy for them. I've seen the difference they've already made with Plan A, and I know they'll bring the same energy and dedication to this idea.

There is literally a mountain of old clothes ending up in Britain's landfill sites and we want to reduce this mountain one Shwop at a time. On a street in East London, we used just five minutes of clothing waste - 9,513 items - to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem by clothing the entire street in these wasted items. The total numbers thrown away are truly staggering - 114,155 an hour, more than two million a day and can you believe it, more than one billion year?

But it doesn't have to be that way. If we all get behind this we can give old clothes a future. We can re-sell them, re-use them and even re-cycle them.

So what actually happens with them? Well, we'll sell as many as we can through Oxfam - which in turn will help many people better their lives. But isn't it also exciting that our old jumpers will go on to have a whole other life? I love that idea - there are so many items that I just know I won't wear again, but I can't bear the idea of binning them. So who knows - that skirt you pick up at Oxfam might just have been mine!

We can also send some overseas to help those in need, but here's the mind-boggling bit. Did you know that our old stuff - the bits and pieces that we can't really sell - could also go on to have a life insulating cars? Or even upholstering furniture? Who'd have thought!

We know it's bad to throw stuff away. Shwopping has come along just at the right time. So that we don't feel bad - instead we feel good about it. You're still binning your unwanted clothes, but only into Shwop Drops - it's all reused, it's all recycled, it all comes round again.

The truth is that nothing leaves this planet. Everything we are is made from what we used to be. So let's keep it turning round, quicker, let's start Shwopping.

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