Is a penny on a garment enough to tackle environmental issues?

Adding a penny to clothes to fund recycling scheme

Today MPs called for there to be a penny added to every item of clothing to fund a £35m annual recycling scheme.

Fast fashion and landfill

shirts on clothes rail various colours“Fast fashion” is the term that has been given to the clothing industry where clothes are being worn very few times and sent to landfill. In the BBC report 235 million articles of clothing were sent to landfill in the UK last year. 700,000 fibres released in a single domestic wash. In 2015 1.2bn tonnes of carbon emissions were produced by the global fashion industry.

Focus on plastics and food waste not clothing?

There has been (rightly) a huge focus on plastic as the public’s minds have become engaged with the issue thanks to programmes like Blue Planet. Similarly with food waste. But the clothing industry is doing just as much damage to the environment. It contributes hugely to greenhouse gases, water and air pollution and over-use of water. But are the people who are trying to reduce their use of plastics and encourage industry to make changes the same people who are wearing clothes once, being seen in social media in it and then disposing of it?

We need our MPs to do more in challenging companies. A penny a garment isn’t enough. The law also needs to be enforced to ensure that companies are paying at least the minimum wage so that clothes aren’t being made so cheaply it encourages people to throw away items. A change in the voluntary to compulsory agreements to reduce environmental impact and their involvement in what can be done to work in partnership with consumers regarding clothes they no longer want. Vouchers, clothes swaps, using recyclable materials so they can reuse etc.

What are stores doing to tackle clothes waste?

Well, Marks and Spencer runs its Plan A because there is no Plan B scheme. This includes giving customers a £5 voucher to spend in Marks and Spencer for purchases over 335 when they return items through Oxfam. But little is heard about this now? This is part of a larger programme and is working towards being more environmentally friendly by 2025.

ASOS sourcing programmes involves looking at  how to design, source and innovate to create more sustainable products.

Adidas joins the fight against plastic pledging it will use only recycled plastics by 2024.

There are and will be others. But it comes of no surprise to see that MPs say that they have had no commitments from the big bad boys, JD Sports, Sports Direct and Amazon UK who are amongst companies providing little to no detail on doing anything to help save the planet. That will be greed then.

Are companies doing enough to reduce negative environmental impact?

Let’s face it – companies can look for alternatives to plastic packaging which won’t necessarily affect costs to them or consumers. When it comes to fashion though, we are, in essence, amongst other measure, looking at expecting companies to actually sell fewer items! We need to encourage people to reduce their clothes waste which means buying fewer things.

Although the proposed scheme to add a penny to a garment would help recycling schemes there is more that could be done. There are signs that companies are waking up to looking at making responsible textiles and yarns and perhaps as this idea develops, the more environmentally friendly companies will become the ones of choice for the customer.

Unsurprisingly the voluntary approach to improving the sustainability of the fashion industry is failing – with just 11 fashion retailers signed up to an agreement to reduce their water, waste and carbon footprints. (As reported by the BBC.)

What can consumers do to reduce clothes waste?

  1. We need to educate people more around the impact of the current  throwaway culture. People who have been seen in an item on social media and say they can’t wear it again! Ridiculous but true.  Let’s encourage people to look at it as a positive move rather than a negative one.  Be proud of wearing something more than one once!
  2. Give things to charity helping both the charity, the person buying the item and keeping them in wardrobes not landfill.
  3. Sell clothes on auction sites or for free on GumTree and Facebook pages.
  4. Upcycle. Make changes to clothes, adding bling, cutting trousers into shorts etc.
  5. Using charity shops.
  6. Buy from companies working toward environmentally friendly practices and sustainability.

 

 

What else can we do to encourage responsible use of textiles, materials and clothes?