With This One Move, The Government Has Proved It Doesn’t Care About Fast Fashion’s Impact On The Planet

We currently send 300,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill, but the government has rejected a series of proposals designed to help reduce fashion's impact on the environment

government rejects proposals to reduce impact of fashion industry

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Published on

In February this year, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published a report on the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’and the wider clothing industry. In the report, recommendations were made about how to ameliorate the current situation, which sees 300,000 tonnes of clothing sent to landfill or incineration every year. Said recommendations covered everything from raising money to invest in recycling programmes to monitoring labour practices to ensure that working conditions are safe and fair. Today, the government's response has been published by the EAC and every single recommendation has been rejected.

Some of the key recommendations proposed included placing a ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled. The report also suggested that mandatory environmental targets be put in place for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million. Also rejected was the introduction of a one penny charge per garment, designed to fund recycling schemes and to discourage the culture of disposable fashion.

With regard to workers' rights, the EAC report suggested that the government publish a list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement that can be accessed by the public. "This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act," read the proposal. According to the EAC, no recommendations relating to modern slavery have been adopted.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the EAC said: "Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create. The government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets. The government 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. Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth."

The EAC's original report also suggested that the government needed to take a proactive role in enforcing the National Minimum Wage – their response being that HMRC and other enforcement agencies are already doing this. “We presented the government with the evidence that it has failed to stop garment workers in this country being criminally underpaid, despite its claim that the number of national minimum wage inspectors has increased," said Creagh.

“The public has a right to know that the clothes they buy are not produced by children or forced labour, however the government hasn’t accepted our recommendations on the Modern Slavery Act to force fashion retailers to increase transparency in their supply chains.

“This is plain wrong. The EAC will be closely monitoring steps that the government claims it is taking to address the problems exposed in our report."

In the last week, we've seen fast fashion brand Missguided further disregard the planet with its £1 bikini. While it sold out in every size, there was significant criticism on social media as people pointed out not just the environmental implications but also the murky manufacturing processes inevitably involved with producing something so cheaply.

Given that an investigation by the Financial Times last year revealed 'Dark Factories' in the UK, where workers are severely underpaid and forced to work in unsafe conditions, the super-fun, excitable marketing tone taken to promote the £1 bikini feels more insidious than ever. We are all responsible for this planet – only we can choose to make different decisions when it comes to what we buy and from where.

Luckily, there are some high street brands striving to make a difference. While the ideal situation would be to refrain from buying more, it's obvious that that's not a realistic target to set. So, if you are looking for something new, consider buying from one of the below brands instead. You may just help to reduce fashion's increasingly worrisome impact.

Read More: The High Street Brands Striving To Make Sustainability Their Biggest Trend Yet

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