The fashion industry is said to be worth £28bn to the UK economy, but it is estimated to produce as many greenhouse gases as all the planes flying in the world.
In a report published in February, a cross-party group of influential MPs said that the government should force retailers and clothing producers to take more responsibility for the impact of their industry with a new fashion tax. The 1p charge per item of clothing would be used to help fund better waste collection and recycling systems.
But the government’s response in June failed to commit and stated that it could only be considered by 2025.
So what happens now?
Those in favour of the tax make it clear that the fashion industry needs to change.
The scandal with Burberry burning unsold goods to the value of £28.6m back in 2017 only heightened people’s awareness of the impact of fast fashion.
According to the report by the Environmental Audit Committee there were 235 million items of clothing sent to landfill in last year alone and 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions produced by the global fashion industry.
Falling prices, social media marketing and the convenience of online shopping has meant consumers are buying twice as many items of clothing as they did a decade ago – and as this trend continues to grow, so will the impact on our environment.
Would this fashion tax solve our problems?
The social impact of fashion also raises concerns. Evidence suggests that fashion companies do not yet have transparency over their supply chain. Therefore consumers cannot guarantee that their purchases have not been involved in the exploitation of the workforce.
Fears have been voiced by the industry that if the tax came into force workers would be paid less to absorb the additional cost.
There are other ideas that have been presented to help mitigate the impact of fast fashion:
- A ban on landfilling unsold stock that could be recycled
- Mandatory environment targets for fashion retailers of a certain size
- Tax benefits to support responsible fashion companies
However, as the situation in Britain is especially bad compared with the rest of the world, we still have a long way to go.
The fashion industry is based on an unsustainable business model and fuelled by limitless consumer demand.
The recent report may have been music to many ears, but until we change the mind-set of the consumer it seems fast fashion will continue to be a fast track for social and environmental damage.