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MPs call on Government to support a more sustainable fashion industry

Lauretta Roberts
15 September 2020

The Government is being urged to support the development of sustainable fabrics, boost fabric recycling and help bring manufacturing jobs back to the UK in a new report created by environmental charity Hubbub on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion.

This latest report sets out how the sector could follow a more sustainable route and the role that government, businesses and consumers might play in that. 

It acknowledges the hit the industry has taken from the COVID-19 crisis including disruption to supply chains, closed stores, excess stock and changes to consumer behaviour and it advocates for a move away from throwaway culture, which its says, is backed by the public.

The report outlines the government should: 

  • Invest in research and development to create more sustainable fabrics that have a lower environmental and social impact – backed by 66% of the public.
  • Boost investment in UK fabric recycling facilities to create a more circular economy – backed by 73% of the public.
  • Support new start-up businesses operating more green business models – backed by 74% of the public.
  • Invest in skills to bring more clothes manufacturing jobs back to the UK – backed by 72% of the public 
  • Support industry to create clearer information and labelling about the sustainability of clothes helping to educate consumers about their everyday choices and force companies to change their approach – backed by 64% of the public.

The waste generated by fashion has been under scrutiny for some time and was a focus of a report last year, called Fixing Fashion, composed following an industry inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee. That report found that textile production accounted for 20-35% of microplastics in the oceans as well as toxicity in the land and particles in the air.

The Government ultimately rejected the recommendations made in the report, which had included a levy on all garments sold, and said that others were already covered in the 2018 Resource and Waste Strategy.

The APPG says that fast fashion results in £140 million of clothing being sent to landfill every year in the UK. While charity shop donation rates are high, 300,000 tonnes of clothing still end up in household bins every year with around 20% of this going to landfill and 80% incinerated. The industry’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise to nearly 2.8 billion tonnes by 2030.

The report asserts that 65% of people said they’d be happy for fashion to "slow down", while a third of 16-24 year olds said they felt under constant pressure to buy new clothes. Three quarters of respondents agree that clothing companies have a responsibility to look after the people who make their products with 52% or respondents saying they would be prepared to spend a little more on their clothes if they were guaranteed to be made ethically in the UK supporting British workers.

Catherine West MP, chair of the APPG, said: “Coronavirus has exposed deep inequalities and unsustainability in the garment industry. Creating a sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry is an important but complex challenge for government, industry and the public and what is clear is that there is an appetite for this on all sides. We must seize this moment and put these recommendations into action by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, both within the UK and globally”.

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