The stark reality of fast-fashion and how we can become more sustainable?

Published 20th March 2019

Fast-fashion; a buzzword that evokes both passionate and contentious discussion of the environmental and social impacts associated with this, less than sustainable, fashion culture. Consumers are buying more clothes than ever before and keeping them for less than half the time before discarding them. This trend is projected to rise globally by 63% from 62 million tons of clothing bought today to 102 million tons by 2030. This is equivalent to an additional 500 billion T-shirts. One possible solution is the idea of a one penny tax for each piece of fast-fashion clothing produced.



What is the Effect of Fast-Fashion?

In a damning recent report released by the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability, a group of MPs and industry experts reviewed the impact of the UK fashion industry and their conclusion was,

The way we make, use and throw away our clothes is unsustainable”.

The EAC report details key ways in which fashion is damaging the planet and provides recommended solutions in an attempt to overcome the problems, which the government are currently reviewing.


The Proposed Solutions

Forced/illegal labour – A publicly available list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement should be released by the government and be readily accessible. Thereby, ensuring the rights of workers in the UK and abroad.

Microplastics – New synthetic garments should be tested by retailers and fibre shedding results should be published. In an attempt to minimise microplastic pollution.

Excess water consumption – A governmental tax reform to compensate fashion companies that design/manufacture products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.

Growing consumption and demand for newer, faster fashion – The government should make fashion wastage the responsibility of the retailer. A one penny tax per garment should be placed on retailers and producers to fund improved clothing collection/recycling in the UK. In addition, incineration and landfilling of unused stock (that can be reused/recycled) should be banned.

Excessive clothing wastage – The taxing system should be shifted to provide incentives to encourage reuse, repair and recycling. Thereby, supporting responsible companies control waste. In addition, VAT should be reduced on repair services as is conducted in other countries e.g. Sweden.

Over-consumption and excessive wastage are factors that along with the potential implementation of a fast-fashion penny tax, can also be minimised through education. Educating emerging generations of the consequences of excessive and wasteful consumption (including the consumption of generations before them) and teaching them how to recycle and repair clothing rather than dispose is crucial. Students and school children are particularly interested in environmentalism and this is seen through recent and ongoing worldwide protest campaigns, in which pupils are abandoning their classrooms to voice their opinions on climate change.


When will the new fast-fashion laws be implemented?

The findings of the EAC investigation were published on 19th February 2019 and the government has a two-month window in which to respond. With the subject of Brexit currently placing increased strain on the UK Government, it is unclear as to whether the deadline will be met. However, what is apparent is that these factors must be considered critical and delaying response/action to these matters only contributes to the social and ecological burden.


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