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Fast-fashion plastic tax pushed for UK brands fueling runaway climate change

Half of the fast fashion items sold by popular British online brands such as Boohoo and Missguided are made entirely from non-recycled plastics such as polyester, a think tank said Friday when it urged the government to impose a tax on such clothing. lift.

Most inexpensive clothing is made of fabrics made up of synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, and elastane.

Typically derived from petroleum, these man-made polymers are closely linked to fossil fuels and environmental damage from emissions and waste, including the release of microplastics into the environment, according to the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

“These substances are part of a petrochemical economy fueling runaway climate change and pollution,” said Josie Warden, chief of regenerative design at the RSA and co-author of the report ‘Fast Fashion’s Plastic Problem’, in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Britain’s throwaway culture means most fast fashion ends up in the landfill, where it can take thousands of years to break down, said the RSA, which works to find solutions to social challenges.

The report was published ahead of the start of London Fashion Week, which starts next Saturday, and states that fast fashion companies have been too slow to use recycled materials.

Only 1 percent of the clothing on PrettyLittleThing’s website contained recycled materials, 2 percent on Boohoo, 4 percent on ASOS and 5 percent on Missguided, according to RSA’s analysis of 10,000 items recently listed by the brands.

The survey found that 89 percent of the merchandise on PrettyLittleThing’s site contains virgin plastic, 84 percent on Boohoo and Missguided, and 65 percent on ASOS. Overall, 49 percent of the garments were made entirely from virgin plastic, rising to 60 percent for Boohoo.

The RSA accused fast fashion companies of “greenwashing” their image by producing small, sustainable ranges, when most of their products were made from petrochemicals whose use must be restricted to combat climate change.

ASOS responded to the report, claiming it was not a fast fashion brand, designing clothes to last, and educating customers about extending the life of clothes. Other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

With the use of synthetic fibers in fashion doubling between 2000 and 2020, the report argues that Britain – which will host the global COP26 climate summit in November – must take action to create a more sustainable fashion system.

“The sheer amount of clothing produced by these websites is shocking — we should see many of these items, which go for rock bottom prices, as comparable to other short-lived plastics,” Warden said.

“The nature of fast-fashion trends means they are not designed to last in our wardrobes.” The RSA said revenues from a tax on clothing containing virgin plastic could be invested in creating new materials, recycling and encouraging more sustainable production.

The report’s authors said most shoppers were unaware of the magnitude of plastic use in fast fashion. They called on brands to regularly publish statistics on how much plastic goes into their clothing and to explore ways to promote second-hand clothing.

The high environmental costs of fast fashion are inversely related to the low cost of the garments, the latter being an important part of their consumer appeal. However, there is also an increasing awareness and appreciation for the former.

In April 2020, researchers from the University of Manchester warned that the fashion industry must make urgent and fundamental changes to prevent devastating environmental damage, noting in a study that Britons buy more clothes per person than any other European country, with only a limited amount of money.

amount of used clothing is reused or recycled. While sustainability is now firmly on the agenda for the fashion industry, major brands are still struggling to fully meet the demands and expectations of their customers.

In terms of political action, the UK government unveiled plans in March this year to reduce waste in multiple sectors, including proposals for measures that will ramp up action for fast fashion production and hold manufacturers accountable for textile waste.

Meanwhile, technology can also play a role in reducing clothing waste. In April, E&T spoke with French start-up Euveka about its robotic mannequin, which they believe could help green the fashion industry while increasing demand for styling and sampling.