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MPs launch inquiry into the effects of disposable fast fashion

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MPS have launched an inquiry into the fashion industry’s environmental impact.

'Fast fashion' and its effect on the environment will be investigated in an upcoming inquiry launched by the environmental audit committee. This is part of a move to make fashion more sustainable.

MPs plan to look at the carbon, resource use and water footprints of clothing throughout its life cycle and how clothing can be recycled to reduce pollution.

The committee’s chairwomen Mary Creagh said “the way we design, make and discard clothes can have a huge environmental impact.

"Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don't know where or how to recycle end-of-life clothing."

The environmental impact of fashion has come under fire in the past. A report last year by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that if the fashion industry continues growing on its current path, it could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.

Fast fashion looks at how brands churn out collections inspired by the latest fashion trends seen on catwalks.

High street shops and online retailers such as Topshop, Primark and H&M are offering cheap clothing that can easily be disposed of and repurchased once a new trend comes along.

The staggering popularity of these fashion mammoth giants has helped boost the UK fashion industry, which contributed £28.1 bn to the national GDP in 2015, up from £26bn in 2013. 

Worldwide, we consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year.

Clothing manufacturing involves using chemical dyes, finishes and coatings- some of which can be toxic.  Carbon dioxide is also often emitted throughout the clothing supply chain. 

Two of the most harmful materials to manufacture are leather and cotton.

According to the environment documentary, The True Cost, more than 90 percent of cotton is genetically modified, using a large amount of water. Cotton production is to blame for the 18 percent of global pesticide used and 25 percent of insecticide used.

Fashion designer Stella McCartney, who is known as one of the few designers not to use leather in her products, has previously frowned upon the fashion industry for being incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation report estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year, with one rubbish truck of textiles said to be taken to a landfill or incinerated every second. 

The generation of bloggers, YouTubers and Instagram influencers who make a living by testing and reviewing the latest fashion trends with “hauls” and sponsored videos maybe adding to the problem.

They encourage viewers to purchase low-cost fashion clothing in a bid to keep up with the trends and to look stylish for their social media following.

Online retailer Boohoo, which sells many of its products for less than £20, reported last year that its profits grew by 97 percent after paying social media influencers and celebrities to promote their brand on Instagram.

John Lewis announced earlier this week that customers would be offered cash for old clothes in a bid to reduce the impact of the 300,000 tonnes of clothes sent to UK landfill each year. 

The items bought back are then either mended and resold or recycled into new products.

Brands such as Reformation and Maiyet are some of the few fashion-forward brands working towards making affordable clothing that does not have a negative impact on the environment.  

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