22 Jun Fast Fashion under review: why it’s time to make your voice heard
Fast fashion and its impact on the environment will be investigated in a new inquiry by the UK Government, it has been announced today.
The fashion industry has one of the largest carbon footprints. Over the past 10 years clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, with 300,000 tonnes of clothing going to landfill or being incinerated every year.
The devastating impact of plastic pollution has been impossible to avoid in recent months, from the heartbreaking Blue Planet II footage to viral images and videos on social media of beach waste and animals suffering. We’re clearly facing a waste crisis like never before, and we need to act now before it’s too late.
The rise of fast fashion is wearing out the world and affecting our health. Every time we wash synthetic fabrics we release thousands of microfibres into the water system, which find their way into the food chain.
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. At least 300 marine animals die each year in waters around Thailand alone due to ingesting plastic, so we have to ask ourselves, what is plastic pollution doing to our health?
With the average British consumer wasting £142 a year buying items they never wear, it’s time to take a long hard look at our toxic fashion habit.
Why is the government acting now?
We’re on the brink on an ‘impending crisis’ when it comes to waste in the UK. In 2017 China made a shock announcement banning the importing of plastic waste. The UK were sending two thirds of our used plastic overseas, but the ban means that we now need to find a new solution to deal with around 540,000 tonnes of plastic waste we generate each year.
When it comes to fashion, many people try to ease the guilt of their over-consumption by donating old clothes to charity, but only 20% of donated clothes are sold in UK charity shops. 80% are sold to distributors who export them to developing countries where they are sold in second hand markets.
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 recently announced that they will stop importing used clothes by 2019 to focus on growing their own textile industries.
300,000 tonnes of clothing is binned in the UK every year, so if we can’t export it overseas any more, where is it going to go?
The government needs to address our growing waste streams, fast.
Today’s announcement is a victory for conscious consumers, campaigners and the global Fashion Revolution who have been calling for changes in the fast fashion industry for a long time, but the hard work doesn’t stop here.
Make your voice heard
The government have made several promises around plastic pollution recently that have gone nowhere. Despite their 25 year environmental plan, they have been accused of “warm words without action”, and without continued pressure this investigation may have little impact.
When it comes to deciding what actions to take as a result of this inquiry, the government will be influenced by several factors.
Many accused their environmental plan of being a PR stunt to gain favour with younger voters after the environment was identified as a key issue in younger demographics. Two thirds of under-40s backed Jeremy Corbyn at the last election so the Tories will clearly be considering how to win over sustainably-minded Millennials.
However, political parties are heavily reliant on funding and a quick online search suggests that fundamental changes to the fast fashion industry may not be popular with some of the Conservative’s biggest donors. High profile supporters include The Chief Executive of LK Bennett, the Founder of Ted Baker, the Chief Executive of Kurt Geiger, the Daughter of Topshop’s Founder and the CEO of ASOS.
We need to make sure that the investigation, and any results that come from it, are in the best interest of the environment, not party investors. We need to show the government and the big brands that as consumers, we want fashion that doesn’t cost the earth. Although we often feel powerless in the face of major issues, consumer demand is often the driving force of change.
Together we can make sure that this is more than a political greenwashing campaign. Raising our collective voices has got us this far, but there’s more to be done…
The Environmental Audit Committee will be investigating the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry.
Three key areas will be considered:
- Environmental impact of the fashion industry
- Waste from fashion
- Sustainable garment manufacturing in the UK
You can have your say by submitting evidence to the investigation for the committee to consider. They have published an expanded list of these key points on their website and invited people to submit evidence by Monday 3rd September. This is an excellent opportunity to have your voice heard. Check out this advice on how to make a submission if you’d like more information.
Consumer and campaigner power has brought us this far. Radical change is needed in the fast fashion industry, the way we buy, care for and dispose of clothes, and how we process waste in this country. Change needs to be a collective effort and it’s never been more crucial for our health and our planet that we make real, significant and lasting change. You can be part of it, so make sure you use your voice and have your say.