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MPs to investigate environmental impact of ‘fast fashion’

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an investigation into the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry.

The inquiry will examine the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. It will also look at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced.

‘Fast fashion’ is a concept developed by retailers used to describe affordable clothing that is manufactured quickly to reflect catwalk trends and tends to require constant repurchasing. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that the growth of clothes production is linked to a decline in the number of times a garment is worn.

These clothes are considered ‘disposable’, usually only lasting for a season and it has been blamed for contributing to pollution due to the production of the clothes and the decaying of the cheaper, synthetic fabrics once they have been discarded.

Retailers which produce ‘fast fashion’ have also come under fire for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries. Furthermore, in addition to the recent trend of consumers wanting goods made in Britain, ‘fast fashion’ has been accused of worsening working conditions in the UK.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions.

“Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing. Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”

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