Let’s ditch obsession with throwaway fashion before we destroy the world

Our demand for fast fashion is creating huge environmental issues, says Rachel Moore

Our demand for fast fashion is creating huge environmental issues, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Think cutting back on plastic will save the world? Rachel Moore says not spending money on throwaway clothes could benefit us all even more

Being lectured by bright shiny young things about how us oldies are killing their Earth is all well and good, if they practise what they preach.

It's not us fiftysomethings getting our pre-orders in for the £1 bikini by online cheap, cheerful and chuck-it-out peddler. Misguided; it's the under-25 'wear-it-once-and-fling-it-in the bin' brigade.

They might be wagging their fingers when we chuck red meat in our shopping trolleys and, rightly, be waging war on single-use plastic.

Think of future generations, they scold in one breath, before snatching their latest delivery of manmade fibres sewn together in far-flung sweatshops from the courier.

The industry churning out these pocket-money-priced garments is one of biggest polluters on our planet, and one that encourages obscene amounts of waste.

We are feeding the monster. We simply buy too much.

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Raging against single-use plastics is effectively pointless, if you're embracing single-wear fashion.

Fashion is a source of emissions, and filling landfill with polyester tops and dresses that barely saw the light of day. If that's not bad enough, we're killing the environment when we wash the cheap fabrics and the fibres seep into the seas.

The obsession for something new for Saturday night, buying cheap stuff we don't need because we can and "I can't wear this again, it's been seen on Instagram already" and binning it, sometimes without even one wash, is criminal.

The buy-it-and-chuck-it trend is pushed in nearly every commercial break on Love Island (watched in the interests of anthropology, honest).

"Get the Love Island look" from I Saw It First, viewers are told.

The skimpy strips of fabric might be as cheap as chips to buy, but their cost to the environment is massive.

We send 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill. Cheap clothes in manmade fabrics that go on to choke the environment after one or two wears.

It's obscene. Fashion is accelerating climate disaster. Future generations will pay the environmental costs of making the material, shipping the garments and then burying it in landfill.

An estimated £30bn of unused clothes hang in our wardrobes. Every year, we buy 38million items with 11m items going to landfill. This is simply not sustainable.

Every weekend there are massive queues at the favourite high street cheap-and-cheerful stores. Then there's the rapidly-increasing online shopping industry, with parcels - avalanches of single-use plastic - adding to the traffic pollution on our roads.

It's not just the young either. Instagram 'influencers' of all ages are constantly pushing shoppers in Primark, H&M and other fast fashion buy-and-wear-once stores.

Affordable fashion is nothing to do with helping people who can't afford new clothes access to the latest styles. It's all about volume and throwaway.

The fashion industry isn't doing enough to counter its damage. They talk a good sustainability game - many boast about using recycled or sustainably-sourced materials.

But a report this year found that 40pc of all fashion companies have not even started to take sustainability seriously, despite making billions a year.

Charity Wrap, which promotes sustainable waste management, says the average lifetime for a garment in the UK is 2.2 years. More than half fast-fashion items are in the bin in less than a year.

We're not just wasteful with clothes and food. Our obsession for the new and latest model means we're throwing away mountains of perfectly serviceable white goods, furniture and electronics every year.

At the tip, car-park-size collections of fridges, freezers, washing machines stretch on to the horizon. Many are not kaput. They've just been replaced with something newer.

Its hypocrisy is we applaud the drive to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 but continue to do the damage. To achieve this target we all need to look seriously at our shopping habits.

It goes deeper than habits though - it's our attitude. I remember feeling physically sick at seeing a practically-new kitchen in a skip because it wasn't the taste of the home's new owners. A criminal waste.

A cross-party environmental audit committee's report on cleaning up fast fashion, recommending a penny tax on every garment sold to fund recycling initiatives and a ban on burning unwanted clothes, wasn't taken up by the government this week.

It appears nonchalant about it. The impending disaster might be thought about in a few years' time if the industry's action has made little impact by then and then a waste tax might be considered.

This will be too late.

We need to be smarter and think of consequences more.

Shop preloved, sell on items that no longer fit or you're fed up with, and swap clothes with friends.

Some of my best and most-worn purchases have been preloved from the Green Room at Reepham's Dial House or Lois Reloved at White House Farm, Sprowston. These places are made even more special by the women who run them, the wonderful Jo and Sarah, who give great advice - and you can leave feeling smug that something unwanted is being recycled and making two people a little bit of money.

This is something we can all do something about - and talk to our children about it - to really make a difference to the world.