Kate Middleton’s approach to fashion praised by author
New clothes “may be fun to buy”, Friends of the Earth says, but they create mountains of waste and contribute to the plastic pollution crisis. Charity spokeswoman Camilla Zerr added: “A huge proportion of new clothing is made from synthetic materials, which shed tons of plastic microfibres into our environment every year when they are washed. “These plastic fibres can be swallowed by fish and other sea creatures, and risk making their way into our food. It’s time to put the brakes on the fast fashion industry and the significant harm it causes to our planet.”
The Environmental Audit Committee says 300,000 tons of clothing ends up in household bins every year – 20 percent of which goes to landfill and 80 percent is incinerated.Fast fashion – when garments are mass produced at a low cost – has resulted in £140million worth of clothing being sent to landfill every year in the UK.
But a growing appreciation for nature during the pandemic, and a rise in more eco-conscious consumerism, is resulting in a move away from this culture.
The boss of Thriftify, an online marketplace for charity shops, said the shift towards sustainable fashion has “gained momentum” in the last 18 months.
Ronan O Dalaigh said: “Consumers are becoming aware of the damaging effects of fast fashion on our planet.
“Instead of buying new, we can lower our impact significantly by opting for used items, discouraging further unnecessary manufacturing.”
The Daily Express Green Britain Needs You campaign is calling on everyone to do their bit for the planet.
Gen Z – people born between 1997 and 2015 – are believed to be behind a rise in sales in charity outlets. Older ones are using online marketplaces and communities like Vinted and Depop, which allow them to sell, buy, and swap new or secondhand items. James Gaubert, founder of digital fashion brand Republique, said: “Gen Z cares about this planet far more than anybody else. There’s almost a little bit of Greta Thunberg in each and every one of them.”
The Royal Society for the Arts this month found that 60 percent of Boohoo’s women’s clothing and 57 percent of Prettylittlething’s stock, owned by Boohoo, were made from new plastics.
Landfill nightmare as mountains of unused material is dumped
For Missguided it was 42 percent and for Asos 36.
Fashion is the second most polluting industry after oil, with one polyester shirt having a 12lbs carbon footprint compared to 4.6lbs for a cotton one.
Digital clothes have been proposed as an alternative, with Forest Green Rovers becoming the first football team to launch a digital kit in May.
Fans choose whether they want to buy the digital shirt for £5 or the full kit for £10 and upload an image of themselves in the kit, which can be uploaded and shared online.
Last night fashion brands hit back, with Missguided saying it is committed to ensuring 10 percent of its products use recycled fibres by the end of the year and 25 percent by the end of 2022.
Asos disputed the report’s description of it as a producer of “throwaway” clothing. It said it publishes information about how to care for fabrics in a more environmentally friendly way.
Boohoo said: “Solutions require collaboration which is why we are delighted with the response from our suppliers to help us.”
Food brands are adding traffic-light labels to packaging so customers can see the environmental impact of an item.
Under the initiative, backed by the Government, labels will grade foods on how much carbon was produced while making and delivering them.
George Eustice says the labels have the potential to tackle climate change
Firms such as Costa, Marks & Spencer and Co-op will use the “eco scores” on the front of food packaging from September.
The most environmentally friendly items will have a dark green label with an A+ and the least will bear a red label with a mark of G.
The system was developed by food scientists at Oxford University with support from World Wide Fund for Nature. Foundation Earth, a non-profit organisation supported by the Government, will also work on the pilot with Nestlé and firms including Sainsbury’s.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the labels have “the potential to help address the urgent challenges of sustainability and climate change.”
Labour’s Shadow Secretary Luke Pollard said: “Food production can be a contributor to both carbon emissions and biodiversity loss, so this will help people make more informed choices. People want to do what they can to tackle the climate crisis.”
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that food production is responsible for up to 37 percent of greenhouse gases.
The UK is the “epicentre” of fast fashion in Europe with each person buying an estimated 59lbs of clothing every year, Greenpeace has suggested
Research by the environmental charity found the average person owned 115 items of clothing in 2019 but 30 percent of these clothes had not been worn within the past year.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Fast fashion is a bit like single-use plastic. It’s a conveyor belt taking millions of new clothes through design, production, use and then swiftly into the bin.
“What’s worse, the belt is now moving faster and the heap of wasted clothes at the end of it is getting ever higher. One rubbish truck of textiles gets landfilled or burned every second. And less than one percent of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new garments at the end of its life. Ready-to-wear has become ready-to-waste.”
At least £140million worth of clothing goes to landfill every year, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – a charity that works with governments, businesses and communities to improve resource efficiency .
In the UK, only around a third of the 650,000 tonnes of discarded clothes given to charity or other circular fashion initiatives are resold, with the rest being sent off for textile recycling.
Mr Sauven added: “We need garments that are easier to mend, reuse and resell. We need to reduce the water, chemicals and fossil fuels that go into making them.
“We need big fashion brands to stop incinerating millions of perfectly good, unsold clothes. And we need the industry to send a different message: not ‘buy more, use less’, but ‘buy much less, use much more’.
“When it comes to the planet’s resources, we need to start cutting our coat according to our cloth.”
Sustainable fashion brand founders Alice and Tom Cracknell say more people are taking “crucial steps towards conscious consumerism”.
A worker for Origin who makes clothes for fast fashion consumption
The shift means the couple’s 100 percent not-for-profit brand Origin has been able to grow and reach new people.
Alice, who runs the UK-based business full-time alongside emergency doctor Tom, said: “Consumers are slowly but surely moving away from fast fashion.
“A more informed and inquisitive consumer has led to the honest, true brands doing better and gaining more traction. We love being asked the important questions about our business activities, our supply chain and our not-for-profit ethos.
“This is because we know that it is the ethical consumer that wants to be sure we are true to our word.” The founders believe slow fashion is a “crucial” next step in the world of clothing, adding ethically-made garments need to be accessible to as many consumers as possible.
Alice, 32, from Devon, said: “Brands struggle to get their prices down when their processes require respectful and responsible treatment of all those involved in the production of the product.”
Origin donates its profits to business entrepreneurs in Mali, Gambia and Ethiopia, where their fabrics originate.
Pandemic has led to a charity shop boom
Charity store bosses have said the “appetite” for pre-owned clothes has increased amid the pandemic and a shift towards sustainable fashion.
Allison Swaine-Hughes, the retail director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), believes consumers are now looking to shop more sustainably but with an affordable price tag.
The BHF’s stores have reported strong sales since reopening in April, with like-for-like sales up six per cent compared to the same weeks in 2019.
Miss Swaine-Hughes said: “Footfall on the high street has remained below last year and we are having to restrict numbers in our shops, but those customers who do come in are buying more items, more often. There has been a marked shift from browsing to purchasing.
“Our charity shops have a powerful combination of incredible value, choice, and real sustainability delivered in community settings that will continue to appeal to where and how people shop going forward.”
Katy Faulkner, head of retail operations at Sue Ryder, said charity retail has “certainly become more popular” in recent years as environmentally conscious consumers change their ways.
She added: “The support we get from local communities never ceases to amaze us, but charity retail has certainly become more popular in recent years due to the sustainability movement. Following the coronavirus pandemic and multiple lockdowns, appetite for charity retail has only increased.”
Age UK believes “charity shop’s time really has come” as it reported a rise in the amount individual shoppers are spending compared to before the pandemic.
Nick Smith, head of retail at Age UK, believes shoppers are splurging with “more consideration and purpose than before”.
He added: “It’s hard for us to compare the numbers of customers we are getting today compared with the position in 2019 as we are running fewer shops now, but we have spotted that people are spending more – a 25 per cent increase per head over this two-year period.
“Every time we have emerged from lockdowns during the pandemic our shops have been overwhelmed with eager customers.
“This all goes to show that the future is bright for charity shops. Given the growing consciousness of the downsides of a ‘buy today, throw away tomorrow’ culture, it may be that the charity shop’s time really has come. We certainly hope so.”
Andreea Dumitru, the digital editor of the Salvation Army’s Restyle magazine, said social media has played an important role in raising awareness about fast fashion and the environmental issues it causes.
She added: “During the pandemic, our customers were on a mission to declutter and donate their preloved items, as well as adopting a new reuse and recycle mentality.
“The stigma of charity shopping is slowly fading away in the new generation and we were pleased to discover that a higher number of our Gen Z customers started visiting the stores post-pandemic, and sharing their findings and thrifted items on Instagram.
“We find that newer generations are more aware of the impact of fast fashion and its harmful effects, so not buying new has become a 2021 trend.”
Research carried out by YouGov for the Barnardo’s found just under one in five adults is now more likely to consider shopping in a charity shop than before the pandemic.
Barnardo’s received a massive number of donations in the last year with over 900,000 bags donated since its stores reopened in April.
The charity’s head of retail operations David Longmore said: “Barnardo’s has had a record number of donations in the last few months and the rails of our shops are full of great clothes just waiting for people to discover. Buying pre-loved is a win-win – not only do you find clothes that look great but you also help to raise vital funds so we can continue to support vulnerable children, young people and families across the UK.”