Is our appetite for the latest fashion killing our planet?
PUBLISHED: 15:16 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 01 March 2019
Fast fashion needs a long term 'fix' to minimise the affect it's having on our planet, says Emily Cotton.
Every morning when I get out of bed, it isn’t the ‘dragging myself out from under the covers’ I hate most; it’s the task of finding an outfit to put on. But despite what I say to myself every time, not having anything to wear isn’t the issue. In all honesty, it’s quite the opposite.
My wardrobe is, without question, overflowing. I can’t open my drawers anymore because they’re too full and, instead of ‘the chair’, I’ve turned to my brother’s old room as a place to dump all the extra jumpers, jeans and dresses I can’t find a home for.
In a time of seriously ‘fast fashion’, we’re buying more clothing than possibly ever before. And, as we’re now realising, our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with an environmental price tag.
While the fashion industry creates jobs worldwide and is said to be worth around £28bn to the UK economy, it’s also estimated to produce as many greenhouse gases as all the planes flying around the world combined. And to add insult to injury, according to a recent figure, people in the UK send approximately 235 million items of unwanted clothing to landfills each year too.
We’re slowly heading in the right direction with food and plastic waste, and tackling the UK’s culture of disposable fast fashion should be next on our list; which is something the government’s Environmental Audit Committee agrees with.
In a report published this week, the cross-party group of MPs said that the government should force retailers and clothing producers to take more responsibility for the impact of their industry. Stating that less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing at the end of its life, the MPs proposed that fast fashion retailers should be made to pay a 1p surcharge on every garment sold in a bid to help fund schemes that collect and recycle clothes. And I’m totally on board with this.
I’ve recycled paper and cardboard for as long as I can remember and do my best to buy as many products without plastic packaging during weekly food shop as possible. But just by buying clothes, I’ve been unknowingly contributing to the one million tonnes of fashion waste a year – not to mention those nasty little microplastics making their way into the deepest depths of the ocean.
So, I’ve been thinking about what I, and we as a population, can do to help. As well as obviously finding alternatives to binning our unwanted clothes – think charity shops, car boot sales and recycling banks – I think it’s time to bring back the joy of making and mending clothes.
At school and at university, I studied fashion and textiles and spent a lot of my younger years wishing I was just a little bit better at making my own clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I tried but I’m not sure how long they’d have stayed together when being worn. What I could do however was maintain the clothes I had, but as soon as I had the disposable income to buy new, this skill was no longer needed.
In an attempt to not worsen the effects of our outfits on the planet, maintaining the clothes we already own (and not chucking them out at the first sign of damage), is a place we should all start. Trousers can be re-hemmed, buttons can be replaced… I hate to admit it, but even holes in socks can be darned. (Mum, I might have to come to you for that one!). Also, and I’m stating this here so I can be held accountable, I pledge to stop aimlessly buying new when I really don’t need it. No more buying a third pair of blue jeans just because the cut is slightly different or a tenth t-shirt because the quirky slogan reads as something else. I promise.