The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has announced an investigation into the social and environmental impact of the UK's love of "fast fashion" and the wider fashion industry. The inquiry will look at the carbon and water footprints, and overall resource use, of clothing during its life time. The aim is to produce recommendations for how clothing can be recycled and waste further reduced.
The "fast fashion" phenomenon, of manufacturing cheap and cheerful clothing which encourages constant buying, has been steadily growing in the UK. This has led some to raise concerns over its environmental impact, with WRAP highlighting the scale of the problem in its 2017 report, which found that clothing has the fourth largest environmental impact, after housing, transport and food, in the UK.
Clothes production requires a substantial amount of raw materials (such as cotton and silk), which in turn place great pressure on land and water resources. The manufacturing process involves dyes, chemicals, synthetic fibres and coatings, some of which are toxic, and results in certain pollutants being released into the oceans when clothes are washed. Carbon dioxide is also produced as a by-product of the various stages of manufacture and in the transportation of the clothes along the supply chain. All of these are contributing to a growing detrimental impact on the environment, in addition to the equally persistent problem of how fast fashion is disposed of when no longer wanted.
Retail and luxury brands have increasingly become more environmentally conscious and focused on finding more sustainable business practices. It is hoped that the inquiry will identify practical solutions to assist the fashion industry with reducing its impact on the environment.
The Environmental Audit Committee invites submissions by Monday 3 September 2018.