Does spare button really serves its purpose?

This topic popped up in my mind after a coincidental chat with my friend. How often do you use a spare garment button?

To me, spare button is just an extraneous unit, especially when brands cheap out and put a plastic button in a plastic bag. To be frank, I’ve never used any of them. Staring at my “collection” of spare buttons, I’m aroused with the interest to know the other’s thinking about their spare buttons. Therefore, I’ve conducted a spare button survey to fulfill my curiosity on this topic.

The survey took half of a year to complete and we have gathered more than 200 responses from all over the world participating in it.

As expected, almost 80% of the respondents cannot remember the last time they used a spare button and most of them do not even use any spare button. In other words, at the end of the day, spare buttons, all alone or in a plastic bag, tend to be joining their long-lost friends… at the landfill.

Or many of them make their way into the ocean, contributing to marine pollution and endangering aquatic life. Wherever they go, one thing for sure is they aren’t serving the right purpose they were made for.


The point is, 30% of manufactured clothes are overproduced every year which already cause significant pollution to the environment. Now with the extra buttons, it aggravates the problem.

We ask for “no disposable cutlery” for takeaway, no straws” for drinks, but we never ask for “no spare buttons” for our clothes.
We all know things that are “given” are not always essential, but we just get so used to it and never think more and speak up our mind.

We revere our grandmothers’ lifestyle, saving everything in case we need them to fix something, lived “sustainably” and try not to waste a lot. However, we forget that in the society nowadays, technologies are evolving. With modern technology, manufactures are able to guarantee the quality of the buttons and attachment stitching. This means the buttons on the garment will not be detached and lost easily unless the customer removes them by choice.

Nowadays, the brands always talk about how hard they are working on sustainability, recycling the old clothes, using second-hands garments to recreate the new ones or making garments by recycled plastics… Of course, those are some of the sustainable actions that the public appreciate, trying to save the planet. But perhaps they could also start with small actions. Removing the spare buttons from the garments. I believe this initiative gives the brands an opportunity to show the care they put into producing apparel as well as their care of environmental protection. Sometimes, I feel confused that why don’t we just start from the very first step – rethink the consumer buying behaviours, product design and packaging, instead of using extra materials or packaging and then further promote recycling the things we created. The concept of sustainability relies on 3Ps: People, Planet and Profit. The environment (planet) is very important, however, recycling is not always the cure of the threats we created to that.

We as consumers, ought to create the demand for spare buttons obsolescence and share our voice to the brands or retailers.

The brands and retailers are responding to calls from the global community likewise. This does not only help to save the planet from unnecessary plastic pollution, but also bring attention to the brands to rethink their role and the dimension to work on as a real sustainability-focused brands.

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