Fast fashion: MPs to investigate environmental cost of throwaway clothes

Britons bin 300,000 tonnes of clothing every year

Consumers on Nottingham high street
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The rise of cheap, disposable clothes is to be investigated by MPs amid increasing warnings about the impact of so-called fast fashion on the environment.

The Environmental Audit Committee will explore the carbon impact, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its life cycle and supply chain, and try to find ways to make the industry more sustainable, The Guardian reports.

The most recent study by campaign group Wrap found that people in the UK bin about 300,000 tonnes of clothing every year - making the clothing industry the fourth-most impactful to the environment, after housing, transport and food.

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Mary Creagh MP, who is leading the investigation, said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the Earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact.

“Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing. Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is 3 September.

Fashion fans looking to be more green face a tricky task. Choosing an eco-friendly fabric is complex, with pros and cons to all fibre types, says The Independent says. Garments made from natural fibres are not necessarily better than synthetic, as fibre choice is only one part of a complex picture.

“Fibres still have to be spun, knitted or woven, dyed, finished, sewn and transported – all of which have different environmental impacts,” the newspaper explains.

“For example, choosing organic fabrics is better than choosing non-organic fabrics in terms of the chemicals used to grow the fibres, but organic cotton still requires high amounts of water and the impact of dyeing it is higher than the impact of dyeing polyester.”

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