Fast fashion in the UK and the negative impact it has on the environment is at an all time high. With online shopping becoming easier than ever, and fashion trends changing by the second, it’s is no surprise that environmental organisations and charities want to see change, but recently the government has rejected a new bid to address fast fashion in the UK.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAD), a cross-party group of MPs believes action needs to be taken urgently to successfully tackle fast fashion and waste in the UK. In a proposed report, they made 18 recommendations for the government; this included a 1p tax per garment for fashion producers, tax changes rewarding repair and recycling, and a ban on landfilling unsold or returned stock. That’s right, you might be unaware that a lot of fast fashion brands, and even high end brands simply throw away stock instead of selling it, to keep up with the ferocious speed of fast fashion.
Chair of the EAC Labour MP Mary Creagh, thinks that by rejecting this proposal, the government still isn’t doing enough. “The government is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets.” she says. “It is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill.”
According to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the government said it was already addressing fast fashion in the UK. “We recognise how crucial it is for the environmental and social impacts to be well managed, particularly in this era of fast fashion. In our response we explain the action already being taken in respect of clothing and outline our [existing] plans for the future.”
I think Mary Creagh is right, it’s simply not enough. In fact, it’s frustrating to see the government reject these proposals that would only be beneficial. Parliament states that the UK buys more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, WRI reiterates that it takes 2,700 litres of water just to make one cotton T-shirt, and according to the BBC, 700,000 fibres are released in a wash, fibres that eventually end up in the sea.
As Buzzfeed reports, there are now bikinis being made that aren’t suitable for water with dyes that leak when wet and clothes for as cheap at £1, with little thought of the social and environmental impact our desire to be fashionable is actually having on the world. And even designer companies like Burberry, who make high end, high quality clothes have admitted to destroying £30 million worth of stock instead of selling it in order to keep their band exclusive, as the BBC reports.
The government should be taking this more seriously because fast fashion will only get worse, and the damage to those in the Global South and the environment because of western clothing choices needs to end.
In the meantime there are things everyone can all do to slow down fast fashion. Buying second-hand or upcycled clothes, whether from online auctions or charity shop can reduce the amount of new garments being created. Instead of throwing clothes out over a rip or tear, get them mended. And finding a personalised style that doesn’t depend on flippant and fast moving trends can reduce your need for a constantly-changing wardrobe.