Around 350,000 tonnes of clothes – worth £140 million – now ends up in landfill every year in the UK1. One of the main contributors to this high level of clothing waste is the fast fashion industry with its rapid production of low-cost, low-quality clothing to keep up with the latest trends.
On top of the clothing waste it generates, fast fashion is under fire for other environmental and ethical reasons including:
- High levels of air and water pollution from excessive manufacturing and overproduction
- Factory workers being paid below the minimum wage and working overtime to keep costs down and keep up with demand.
What’s the solution?
Both brands and consumers need to take action if these damaging consequences are to be reduced or stamped out.
The good news is that some clothing brands are already making changes to tackle the amount of clothing waste. H&M is just one of several retailers which provide textile bins in stores where consumers can donate unwanted clothing items for resale or recycling. Another good example is E.L.V. Denim’s sustainable line of jeans. These are made from ‘deadstock’ fabric that had previously been rejected. To make a real difference, though, every brand will need to run multiple initiatives like these.
Consumers also need to change their clothing-buying behaviours and shop more sustainably. Two ways they can do this are by buying ‘pre-worn’ garments and investing in good quality clothes that last longer. Findings from our Great Green Sustainability Study show that currently only 27% of consumers buy second-hand clothing although 42% claim to buy quality items. These figures apply across all age groups, but women are significantly more likely to have bought second-hand than men. Our study also showed that consumer awareness of the issues surrounding fast fashion is increasing with 34% saying they know a fair amount or a lot in April 2020, up from 27% in October 2019.
Ultimately, though, much more needs to be done to raise awareness about the issues associated with the production and purchasing of cheaper, low-quality clothes. If this is successful, even small changes to buying behaviours can have a huge benefit on the environment.
To find out more about our Great Green Sustainability Study or how Impact can help you with our sustainability research, contact Tom Gould, Head of Consumer, on firstname.lastname@example.org
 WRAP UK, https://www.wrap.org.uk/content/textiles-overview [accessed: 7th August 2020]