Jul 2, 2021
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Plastic alert: fashion experts, politicians call for clothing warning labels

Jul 2, 2021

Honing in on clothing’s plastic content, fashion experts have joined forces with 40 health counterparts and cross-party politicians in calling for UK clothes to be labelled on how much plastic they contain.

Photo: Pexels

Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution co-founder, Nina Marenzi, Future Fabrics Expo founder, Sara Arnold, Fashion Act Now co-founder and retail expert Mary Portas are among those calling on the government to force fashion brands to label the amount of plastic used to make each item of clothing.

They are joined by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour’s John McDonnell and Conservative peer Lord Swinfen who are among the politicians signing a letter calling for the measure.

The letter, organised by global solutions organisation A Plastic Planet, raises concerns for plastic pollution stemming from the textile industry. It follows a report released this week which found 60% of sustainability claims made by fashion brands count as ‘greenwashing’.

While clothing is labelled as containing plastic fibres like polyester, a recent poll found 72% of Britons are unaware of the amount of plastic used to make clothing, and two thirds are not aware of fashion’s impact on plastic pollution.  

As clothes are washed they shed plastic fibres which then enter the environment, with more than a third of all micro-plastics released into the ocean estimated to derive from synthetic fibres.  

Laundry alone causes half a million tonnes of these microfibres to be released into the seas every year - the equivalent of three billion polyester shirts.

In recent years plastic has become more common in fashion with 60% of all material made into clothing being plastic. 

While some people understand that polyester is plastic, the increase in new types of plastic means people are often unaware their clothing contains it. 

With a number of studies pointing out potential risks associated with plastic microfibres, the experts want to make sure consumers are clear when they are wearing plastic clothes. 

Campaigners believe a clear labelling system will help them make informed decisions when considering the environmental impact of the clothing they buy. 

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: “For years the fashion industry’s impact on plastic pollution has gone under the radar. We are never going to collect or recycle these tiny toxic fibres. Shoppers deserve to know the impact their clothes are having on the planet. The government must listen to public demand and introduce mandatory labels to show the hidden plastic in clothing”. 

Portas added: “We’re becoming increasingly aware of the textile industry’s impact on the plastic crisis. Unbeknown to people, the essential act of washing clothing is resulting in millions of plastic microfibres polluting nature.  

“Consumers, who are more environmentally conscious than ever before, want to do the right thing and it’s only right they’re given the option when buying products to see what impact they will have. 

“Weaning ourselves off plastic is going to be hard so it’s great that this new innovation greenhouse is now available for all fashion brands to co-create plastic free fashion”. 

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