“Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with a huge social and environmental price tag.”
MPs have proposed putting a tax on new clothes to fund better textile recycling and tackle the UK’s culture of disposable fast fashion.
In a report published on 19 February, the cross-party group of influential MPs said that the government should force retailers and clothing producers to take more responsibility for the impact of their industry.
The UK consumes more new clothing than any other European country, according to the report by the Environmental Audit Committee. Every year, £140m worth of clothes are sent to landfill in this country, with the UK fashion business creating 1m tonnes of waste each year – making it a bigger source of carbon emissions than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
The suggested penny tax would be paid by retailers, and could raise up to £35m to improve the UK’s textile recycling facilities.
“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth,” said Mary Creagh MP, chairwoman of the Environmental Audit Committee.
“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.”
The report says that companies should be offered “clear economic incentives” for doing “the right thing” when it comes to sustainability, with retailers and producers being rewarded for designing clothes with a lower environmental impact.
In contrast, brands and manufacturers that create clothes in an environmentally unfriendly manner would be financially penalised.
The report also recommends that darning classes be introduced in UK schools, so that young people learn how to mend torn or worn clothes instead of throwing them away.
Creagh said that while individual consumers should take responsibility for the sustainability of their clothes shopping habits, big businesses also have an important role to play.
“The government must act to end the era of throwaway fashion by incentivising companies that offer sustainable designs and repair services,” she said.
“Children should be taught the joy of making and mending clothes in school as an antidote to anxiety and the mental health crisis in teenagers. Consumers must play their part by buying less, mending, renting and sharing more.”
Want to shop in a way that doesn’t cost the earth? Check out the Stylist guide to the UK’s best sustainable fashion brands – then find out everything you need to know about recycling your clothes.
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