In the same week that Missguided's £1 bikini sparked nationwide outcry over the impact of throwaway fashion, the environment received another blow today. The government has rejected a proposal to introduce a 1p charge on each garment to rectify some of the damage caused by fast fashion, in a move that seems wildly out of step with the direction of public opinion – much like Missguided's misguided monstrosity.
A report by MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) back in February, Fixing Fashion, recommended the levy be introduced to raise £35m a year to improve clothing collection and sorting – a small change that would make a big difference to what happens to textiles after they're thrown away. But rather than taking the proposal on board, the government failed to commit and only said it could consider the idea by 2025.
Not only that, but the government also rejected a proposed ban on the incineration or landfilling of unsold stock that could otherwise be reused or recycled. Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing are buried or burned in the UK every year, according to MPs on the EAC, and the UK has the worst fast fashion habit in Europe, with British shoppers buying around twice as many new clothes as their German and Italian counterparts. It seems the government is unmoved and unbothered by the UK's reputation as the most environmentally irresponsible in Europe when it comes to our wardrobes.
[The government] is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers.
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee
"Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create," said Mary Creagh, Labour MP and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. "The government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets."
She also described the government as "out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill. Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth."
Rather than imposing compulsory environmental targets on fashion companies with a turnover above £36 million, another proposal from the EAC, the government said it would simply encourage them to take part in the voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (Scap), which urges companies to cut their carbon, water and waste impact.
But only 11 retailers have signed up to Scap so far and the recycling charity behind it, Wrap, has had its government funding cut by 80% since 2010, the Guardian reported. Furthermore, there's compelling evidence that growing sales of clothing each year are outstripping the impact of companies doing their bit to reduce their carbon, water and waste. It's only Tuesday, but it's been a terrible week for the environment.