Croydon Council splashed out £1,500 on t-shirts to sell at Surrey Street market - but shifted just 29.
The garments, on sale for £3.50 alongside tote bags priced at £1, bear the slogan "Don't Mess With Croydon", the name of the council's campaign against fly-tipping.
It ordered 250 t-shirts - modelled by Labour councillors at the first council meeting after May's election - and 250 bags and sold them at a stall to promote the campaign on August 16.
If all had been snapped up, the council would still have made a loss of £445.
In reality, it sold only 29.
Forty-two people also signed up to be "clean and green champions", volunteers who help lead the way on environmentally friendly behaviour in their neighbourhood.
A spokesman for Croydon Council said: "This was first and foremost an information stall to get the public involved in Don’t Mess With Croydon: Take Pride, our campaign to tackle fly-tipping.
"People were given leaflets and the chance to show their support by volunteering to become a clean and green champion.
Councillor Stuart Collins, cabinet member for "Clean Green Croydon", models a t-shirt
"In addition, they were able to buy a t-shirt or bag, however this was not the focus of the stall, nor was any profit made.
"All money raised will be reinvested in the campaign."
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