MPs call for fast fashion tax: 'Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with huge social and environmental price tag'

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Fast fashion brands may be hit by a new penny tax. [Photo: Getty]

So-called ‘fast fashion clothing brands may soon be taxed for their impact on the environment.

MPs are pushing for a fast fashion tax, which would see brands and retailers charged 1p per garment they sell. While a seemingly small amount, the combined funds would cover a £35 million government recycling scheme to collect and recycle clothing.

The recommendations come from a cross-party report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee, which looked into the sustainability of the fashion industry and gathered evidence from 16 retailers.

The report highlights just how much waste the UK fashion industry produces; around 1m tonnes of waste a year.

“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. 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,” said Labour MP Mary Creagh, who chairs the group.

What is ‘fast fashion’?

Fast fashion is affordable clothing produced rapidly in response to current trends.

It is often criticised for its disposable nature, with UK shoppers reportedly buying twice as many clothing items of clothing compared to a decade ago – but £235 million worth of clothing ending up in landfills last year alone.

The same report found 26.7kg of new clothing is produced per head in the UK – the highest in the whole of Europe.

The impact on the environment is huge. The Environmental Audit Committee’s report suggests that each year textile product creates 1.2bn tonnes of CO2. 

There’s also a huge amount of microplastic waste deposited in the ocean and an extensive amount of water is used in the production of clothing.

Why sustainability is big news

Sustainable fashion is a pressing concern in the UK industry today.

Initiatives such as the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion platform – which encourages the industry to perform best practice – and Olivia Firth’s Eco-Age, a sustainability consultancy firm, are pushing sustainability to the front of the agenda.

Many British high streets brands have also launched sustainable fashion lines in the past few years. H&M has boasted a ‘Conscious’ range since 2012, Zara launched its #JoinLife range in 2016 and ASOS released its ‘Africa’ line in 2009 – which has since been rebranded as ASOS Kenya.

London Fashion Week, which ends for this season today, has seen a number of sustainable fashion initiatives.

Mother of Pearl treated attendees at its presentation to a dip in a pearly ‘ball pit’, made from 300,000 recycled plastic balls, meant to mimic the effect of plastics in the ocean. The brand also showcased a short film in collaboration with BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit, which highlighted the issues and solutions the fashion industry needs to employ for a more sustainable planet.

While the Global Recycling Council has as of late praised some companies such as Adidas for their efforts to use recycled polyester in their products, others such as Amazon UK are said to have given an inadequate response.

Last October, Boohoo’s student ‘meal deal’ campaign – allowing shoppers to basket three items for £30 – led many to question if fast fashion has gone too far.

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