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Plastics tax urged on UK fast fashion brands ‘fuels rampant climate change’

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Half of the fast fashion items sold by popular UK online brands, including Boohoo and Missguided, are made entirely from non-recycled plastics like polyester, a think tank said on Friday as ‘he urged the government to impose a tax on such clothing.

Most clothing contains synthetic fabrics like nylon, acrylic and spandex, which are made from fossil fuels and damage the environment through emissions and waste, said the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

These fabrics… are part of a petrochemical economy that is fueling rampant climate change and pollution, said Josie Warden, RSA Regenerative Design Manager and co-author of her Fast Fashions Plastic Problem report.

Britain’s throwaway culture means most fast fashion will end up in landfills where it could take thousands of years to decompose, said RSA, which is working to find solutions to social challenges.

Released on Saturday before the start of London Fashion Week, the report says fast fashion companies are too slow to embrace recycled materials.

Only 1% of clothing on PrettyLittleThings was made from recycled materials, 2% on Boohoo, 4% on ASOS and 5% on Missguided, according to RSA analysis of 10,000 items recently listed by brands.

He accused fast fashion companies of greenwashing their images by producing small, sustainable ranges, when most of their products were made from petrochemicals, the use of which must be curtailed to fight climate change.

ASOS said that it is not a fast fashion brand, that it designs clothes to last and educates customers to extend the life of clothes. Other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The study found that 89% of merchandise on the PrettyLittleThings site contained new plastics, 84% on Boohoo and Missguided, and 65% on ASOS.

Overall, 49% of clothes were made entirely from new plastics, compared to 60% for Boohoo.

The use of synthetic fibers in fashion having doubled between 2000 and 2020, the report says Britain – which hosts the COP26 global climate summit in November – must take action to create a more sustainable fashion system.

The sheer volume of clothing produced by these websites is shocking – we should see a lot of these items, which sell for bargain prices, like other short-lived plastics, said Warden.

The nature of fast fashion trends means that they are not designed to have a long life in our wardrobes.

RSA said revenue from a tax on clothing containing virgin plastics could be invested in creating new materials, recycling and stimulating more sustainable production.

The authors said most shoppers were unaware of the extent of the use of plastic in fashion.

They called on brands to regularly publish statistics on the amount of plastic entering their clothes and explore ways to promote second-hand clothes.

Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org

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