British shoppers could soon be paying a penny tax on every item of clothing they buy to fund better recycling schemes.
The idea has been raised by a parliamentary committee, as one way to counter Britain’s throwaway fashion problem.
Environmental audit committee chair and MP Mary Creagh is behind the proposal.
She says that the tax would be paid by the brands rather than consumers in order to de-incentivise them from over-producing clothes.
Creagh told Lorna Subritzky that fashion is moving at a much faster pace than it was 100 years ago, with higher turnaround times and faster copying of designer clothes.
“What we’re saying is this is fuelling the overcompensation and under utilisation of clothes. The average British shopper has a quarter of their garments they never use, and we’re basically throwing away 140 million pounds worth of clothes every year, and it’s going to landfill and being incinerated which is just terrible for the environment.
Creagh says that people come from all over the world to shop on the UK high streets, which is a 32 billion pound industry.
“What it also means is we’re buying twice as many clothes than the stylish Italians. We’re buying more, we’re buying cheaper, we’re chasing after a bargain.”
She says social media is pressuring people to look fashionable while pushing them towards buying a greater variety of items to wear only once.
Creagh says that Burberry was planning to burn $28 million worth of clothes and accessories.
“The whole industry is based on a model of waste. If you sell one garment out of ten, you’ve broken even. If you’ve sold two, you’ve made a profit. You can basically throw away the other eight.”
The idea has the support of fashion designer and co-founder of Ethical Fashion Organisation Carry Somers.
Somers told Lorna Subritzky that people have become more aware of the damage caused by the fashion industry, both on the environment and on workers.
“Over the last year, consumers have become so much more aware of the significant environmental degradation that has been caused by the fashion industry. And we think greater transparency is the first step towards transforming the fashion industry.”
She says that they are not talking just about the cheap end of the market, and even high fashion brands pay their garment makers terribly in order to keep costs low.
Creagh says that children should learn how to sew to make them more aware of how their clothes are made.