27 Jun Fast fashion to be investigated by MPs; are we shopping our way to extinction?
The rise of fast fashion is undoubtedly taking its toll on the planet – but are we shopping our way to extinction?
It has recently been announced by UK government that the Environmental Audit Committee will investigate the impact fast fashion has on the planet and will explore ways the fashion industry could become more sustainable.
Over the past 10 years clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK.
On average British consumers waste £142 a year buying items they never wear, but our shopping habits show no sign of slowing despite struggles on the high street.
Many people try to ease the guilt of their fast fashion habit by donating old clothes to charity, but are often unaware that 80% of our donated clothes are actually exported and sold overseas.
This could all be set to change and again it’s bad news for the UK.
The global export market for used clothes is estimated to be around $4bn but demand is falling. Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi have all recently announced that they will stop importing used clothes by 2019 to focus on growing their own textile industries, which leaves us looking for new ways to deal with the 300,000 tonnes of textile waste generated in this country every year.
It’s not just the manufacturing or disposal of clothes that have an adverse effect on the environment either. Every time we wash synthetic fabrics we release thousands of microfibres into the water system, which find their way into the food chain.
Our fast fashion addiction is taking its toll on the planet and could be affecting our health too. Recent studies found 83% of tap water samples were contaminated with plastic fibres and microplastics have also been found in salt, beer and other foods.
We’ve all seen the heartbreaking Blue Planet footage of the baby whale that died due to plastic contamination. At least 300 marine animals die each year in waters around Thailand due to ingesting plastic. We have to ask ourselves what all this plastic pollution is doing to our own health too.
Committee Chair Mary Creagh said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions.
“Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing.
“Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”
A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published last year found that if the global fashion industry continues to grow at its current rate, it could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.
The clothes we’re buying are killing the planet and potentially harming us too. Giving up fast fashion might feel like a big lifestyle sacrifice, but we need to ask ourselves, what will happen to us if we don’t?