As the fashion industry continues to grow, the strain it puts on the environment intensifies, with even English fashion designers like Phoebe English describing it as a “monstrous disposable industry”. On the eve of London Fashion Week, we reviewed the evidence amassed in the Environmental Audit Committee’s investigation into fast fashion.
Is fast fashion the new single use plastic?
The UK is the epicentre of fast fashion in Europe, with each person buying an estimated 26.7kg of clothing every year, compared to an average 15.6kg for people across Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.
But with that growth in consumption comes a growth in waste with fashion items becoming – effectively – another type of single-use product.
When we buy polyester clothes, we’re wearing fossil fuels
The proportion of synthetic fibres, such as polyester, in our garments has doubled since 2000, rising to 60% in 2019. These fibres are produced from oil. One polyester shirt has a 5.5kg carbon footprint, compared to just 2.1kg for a cotton shirt. If demand continues to grow at the current rate, the total carbon footprint of clothing would grow to 3,978 mega tonnes by 2050. This is equivalent to almost double the carbon emissions of India in 2018. It would mean that by 2050, the industry would monopolise 26% of the global carbon budget required to keep the planet within 2 degrees of warming.