Fast fashion still uses too many virgin synthetics - report
Must do better. Nearly half the women's clothes being sold by leading UK-based online retailers are still made entirely from new plastics, according to a Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) report.
And the charity has called on the UK government to look at introducing a plastics tax on clothes imported into or produced in the UK.
Its research looked at 10,000 recently-listed items being sold by Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing (PLT), Missguided and ASOS and found that, on average, 49% were made of polyester, acrylic, nylon and elastane.
The RSA said the numbers varied by retailer with Boohoo at 60%, Boohoo-owned PLT at 57%, Missguided 42%, and ASOS 36%.
The report, published ahead of London Fashion Week, accused fast-fashion companies of “greenwashing” their images by producing small sustainable ranges, while most of their products were made from petrochemicals, whose use “must be curtailed to combat climate change”.
Most of the clothes contain synthetic fabrics made with fossil fuels and they damage the environment through emissions and waste, the RSA noted. It added that a "throwaway culture" meant "the bulk of these garments are ending up in landfill".
“These fabrics... form part of a petrochemical economy which is fuelling runaway climate change and pollution”, said Josie Warden, the RSA’s head of regenerative design and co-author of its report ‘Fast Fashion’s Plastic Problem’.
"The sheer volume of clothing produced by these websites is shocking - we should see many of these items, which go for rock-bottom prices, as akin to other short-lived plastics. The nature of fast fashion trends means they are not designed to have long lives in our wardrobes", added Warden.
The study, carried out between 11 and 29 May, also said that, on average, just 3% of clothes that contained any plastics used recycled plastics. Only 1% of clothing on PLT’s website contained recycled materials, 2% on Boohoo, 4% on ASOS and 5% on Missguided.
The researchers looked at more than 2,500 recently-added items from each website, spread across different product categories.
Paul Smith, Missguided's head of sourcing and product technology, told the BBC the company was "proud of the progress it had made” so far and that all its own brand products were packaged and despatched in 100% recycled plastic. However, he added: "We agree there's more to do”.
The company said it had "committed to making sure 10% of our products will use recycled fibres by the end of 2021 and 25% by the end of 2022".
Meanwhile, ASOS told Reuters that its prices were not at "throwaway" levels and disputed the report's description of it as a fast-fashion retailer. It said it designed clothes to last and educated customers on prolonging the life of garments.
Boohoo, which has yet to comment on the report, has published a ‘Ready for the Future’ strategy which sets an "ambitious" goal of all polyester and cotton being recycled or more sustainable by 2025.
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