If you have opened Twitter, Facebook or Instagram in the last two days you will have almost definitely seen headlines on ministers rejecting plans to bring in a levy to tackle fast fashion. This news comes in the same week that fast fashion brand Missguided has come under fire from activists and consumers for the selling and heavy promotion of a £1 bikini.
At Beyond Retro we believe in trying our best to do our part in lessening the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. From our reworked vintage collection that gives old clothes a new lease of life to our ongoing collaborations with activists such as No Planet B, we want to make shopping second-hand the norm!
Whilst it seems like we are constantly being bombarded with reports of our governments inadequacies when dealing with the climate crisis, it does fuel the conversation and hopefully encourages more people to do their bit. With so much information and not enough time to keep up with it, we’ve compiled a handy guide so you know what’s going on and how you can help. Your voice matters!
The Environmental Audit Committee Report
On the 19th of February 2019 the EAC published an official report titled ‘Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability, which outlined four main points. These were:
- The environmental cost of our clothes - The main takeaways from this are that “textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined” and that “synthetic fibres are being found in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, in fish and shellfish”.... basically, the outlook is not good.
- The social cost of our clothes - The report put blame on big retailers for trying to keep costs as low as possible by using child labour, forced labour, poverty pay and bad worker conditions. They state in their report that “this must stop”.
- Textile waste and collection - In this area the report outlines that in the UK we consume more textiles than any other European country, 300,00 tonnes of clothing ends up in household bins every year and less than 1% of material is recycled.
- New economic models for the fashion industry - Here the EAC state that we need a new economic model because “business as usual no longer works”. They also say that the Government need to change the law to require companies to perform better checks across their supply chains.
In this section of the report the EAC do make a point to celebrate British designers, such as Raeburn, who are embracing recycled and sustainable fabrics in their collections.
In 2022 a new tax will be implemented which will tax virgin plastic (i.e new plastic), and the EAC asked the Government to consider whether this tax should also be applied to textile products that contain less than 50% recycled fabric, which would be groundbreaking for the future of fashion production.
The Environmental Committee’s Recommendations
The EAC recognise that cheap clothing has made it possible for people on lower incomes to experience the latest trends, but suggest the following steps for increasing the industry’s sustainability:
- “Repairing, rewearing, reusing and renting are preferable to recycling or discarding clothes”
- The Government must find a way to end the throwaway society we are currently in.
- “The Government should make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create and reward companies that take action to reduce waste.”
- The Government should apply a charge of 1p per garment to raise £35 million to invest in better clothing collection and sorting.
The committee also stated that the Government are being to slow to act on these issues and they need action before the end of this parliament. You can read the full report summary and see all 16 recommendations they made here.
The Government’s Response
So, this is why its all kicked off, and why your timeline will have been filled with fast fashion and environmental chat. The Government's response to these recommendations was less than enthusiastic. They failed to commit to any kind of action to implement the tax, instead saying that this could only be considered for implementation by 2025.
With all respect to the Government WE DO NOT HAVE UNTIL 2025! As more and more scientist-backed reports are released on the deteriorating state of the planet it is clear to see that we must act now.
Whilst individually we try to have a positive impact to the environment in our own way, from refusing straws and minimising our plastic use, to shopping secondhand or repairing/upcycling what we have tucked away in our wardrobes... it requires large, Government-implemented taxes and laws for us to effectively battle the big, polluting companies that contribute so much waste.
So, What Next?
Whilst individual actions may feel a drop in the ocean, its just these changes that when combined, makes a huge impact. Here are some groups and movements happening right now that you can get involved with to help start making change happen!
- Extinction Rebellion: Boycott Fashion - After the XR group recently shut down Oxford Street to protest the Governments’ lack of action on climate change a new branch of the movement has arisen. Boycott Fashion is asking consumers to sign a pledge to not purchase any new textiles for 52 weeks. You can see more details and make your pledge on their website and whilst it may seem daunting it will send the right message to retailers and the Government.
- Fashion Revolution - Sustainability champions and previous Beyond Retro X No Planet B panellists Fashion Revolution have created an easy template that you can use to contact your local MP. The simple act of contacting your local MP takes less than five minutes and when enough people do it they have to take notice. You can see the letter template here and find contact details for your local MP here.
- Slow Fashion Summer initiated by CollAction - Similar to the fashion boycott, CollAction are trying to get 10,000 people to sign up to not buy any new clothes for 3 months. The idea is to mend, swap, upcycle and borrow clothes instead of putting money into retailers who do not care about the environmental impact their businesses have. See more details here.
It might feel overwhelming, but everyone who spends money on clothing has the ability to make change happen. Whilst it is on the big companies and Government ultimately to decide if, how and when we try to tackle the issue, our voices are a lot louder than we think when we all come together to try and make positive change.
Alongside the bigger organisations and groups fighting climate change there are small things you can do every day that will make a difference;
- Buy second-hand!
- When you no longer want an item of clothing put it on Depop, eBay or another site where someone else could use it. One man's trash is another man's fresh outfit!
- Only wash your clothes when they are dirty - excessive washing wastes water and contributes micro-fibers to our water.
- Let clothes dry naturally
- Reduce, reuse, recycle.... re-wear and repair! Slow down your consumption by loving what you own.
- Pick items made of recycled fabrics where available.
- Check the sustainability and ethics of your favourite shops
- Say no to plastic carrier bags when they are offered
Reading for more information on the EAC’s report and the fashion industry’s environmental impact:
- Drapers research: How sustainable is the fashion industry?
- The Guardian: Ministers reject plans for 1p per garment levy to tackle fast fashion.
- The Guardian: Trawling for trash, the brands turning plastic pollution into fashion.
- Fashion Revolution: Further information on the fashion industries contribution to climate change.
- Extinction Rebellion: Wider info on climate change