LONDON — Fast fashion will be thrust under the spotlight in a new investigation that was revealed and launched here Friday. The U.K.’s environmental audit committee is looking to reveal the damage done by fast fashion and clean up its environmental footprint.
Investigations will be conducted on fast fashion’s impact, such as its life cycle and carbon and water footprint. It will also focus on providing solutions for waste and pollution reduction. The committee is seeking submissions and contributions to their inquiry by Sept. 3 to inform their first hearing.
“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 climate-changing emissions,” said Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the environmental audit committee.
According to a report conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by 2050 fashion will have consumed over a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget if it continues to grow at the same rate. Fast fashion encourages a throwaway culture — mass production to capture current trends shortens the life span of clothing — and clothes that have been disposed into landfills have contributed to methane emissions.
In an interview with WWD last month, Stella McCartney said “the industry basically cuts down 150 million trees a year and every second a truck of clothes gets sent to a landfill. Doing my ad campaign at a landfill really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation,” she said.
Many other British brands have increased their commitment to sustainability. Last week, John Lewis rolled out a pilot buyback scheme, offering to buy back unwanted clothes. H&M and Zara have in-store recycling initiatives. Collection bins are placed in their retail stores to encourage shoppers to drop off old garments.
Despite growing industry efforts, fast fashion’s environmental impact may just be the tip of the iceberg. “Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibers wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end-of-life clothing,” Creagh said.
“Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”