With fashion week upon us, the fashion industry is coming under an ever-growing magnifying glass when it comes to less-than sustainable practices - this week protestors from Rebel For Life blocked access the Victoria Beckham and Burberry shows arguing against fashion's impact on the plant. Now MPs have called for the worst culprits to a burgeoning environmental problem with fashion production - fast fashion brands - to donate 1p from every item they see towards funding a £35m annual recycling scheme.
The Environmental Audit Committee chair, Mary Creagh, said: ‘Fashion retailers should be forced to pay for the impact of their clothes when they’re thrown away’. The proposed plan (which you can read here) is actually quite a sensible but extremely effective one: the committee have suggested the government reward and incentivise companies that are committing to sustainability (and offering repair services) by reforming taxation while penalizing fashion brands that don't make sustainable and environmental commitments. Pretty much a no-brainer right?
Creagh also called out the influence of social media on our mass fast-fashion consumption habits and said that we need to 'help teenagers get an emotional attachment to their clothes instead of just wearing them a couple of times, getting photographed for Instagram and then chucking them away’ - something that, chances are, we have all been guilty of at least once in our lives. It’s not just the impact on the planet that fast fashion is having (the BBC reports that the industry is estimated to contribute as many greenhouse gases as worldwide plane travel), the MPs have also pointed out the deeply unethical practices of fast fashion brands - some of who pay their workers in the UK (for example in Leicester) less than the minimum wage to produce clothes that are sometimes only single-use items.
It’s also a serious problem for the UK in particular: the consumption of new clothing per person in the United Kingdom is the highest in Europe, contributing 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions as reported in 2013. To put it in perspective: a pair of Levi jeans uses 3,781 liters of water in it’s lifetime when you take into account the water used to grow the cotton for the garment and the amount of times you might launder it. That's 47 full bath tubs.
The report is called Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability. Creagh said Creagh said: 'Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with a huge social and environmental price tag: carbon emissions, water use, chemical and plastic pollution are all destroying our environment.' ITV reports that the MP's have also urged the government to clamp down on companies that are exploiting forced labour or child labour in their supply chains by making it a legal requirement for fashion brands to complete due diligence checks.
To the Environmental Audit Committee: all we have to say is (eco-friendly and sustainably made) hats off.