MPs have said the government must “end the era of throwaway fashion” and make retailers take responsibility for fashion waste by introducing a 1p charge on each item of clothing to pay for better clothing collection and recycling.
The environmental audit committee made the comments in its final report on the sustainability of the fashion industry, released today. It said a charge of 1p per garment as part of a new extended producer responsibility scheme could raise £35m for investment in better clothing collection and recycling in the UK.
The committee also said taxation should be reformed to reward companies that offer clothing repairs and reduce the environmental footprint of their products.
Committee chair Mary Creagh said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with a huge social and environmental price tag: carbon emissions, water use, chemical and plastic pollution are all destroying our environment.
“In the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. ‘Fast fashion’ means we overconsume and under use clothes. As a result, we get rid of more than a million tonnes of clothes, with £140m worth going to landfill, every year.
“Fashion retailers must take responsibility for the clothes they produce. That means asking producers to consider and pay for the end-of-life process for their products through a new extended producer responsibility scheme. The government must act to end the era of throwaway fashion by incentivising companies that offer sustainable designs and repair services. Children should be taught the joy of making and mending clothes in school as an antidote to anxiety and the mental health crisis in teenagers. Consumers must play their part by buying less, mending, renting and sharing more.”
The committee’s key recommendations
• Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36m.
• A new extended producer responsibility scheme to reduce textile waste with a 1p charge per garment on producers.
• The scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.
• The report calls on the government to use the tax system to shift the balance of incentives in favour of re-use, repair and recycling to support responsible fashion companies.
• The government should follow Sweden’s lead and reduce VAT on repair services.
• Lessons on designing, creating, mending and repairing clothes should be in the school curriculum.
• The government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act.
• The fashion industry must come together to set out their blueprint for a net zero emissions world, reducing their carbon consumption back to 1990 levels.
Read more: Mary Creagh’s mission to clean up fashion