The detrimental environmental effects of fast fashion are well documented, but now MPs are claiming that the nation’s penchant for cheap, trend-driven clothing is taking a toll on charity shops, which are being inundated with low-quality items to the extent that they are turning down donations.
Shoppers are buying clothes for very low prices and looking to dispose of them after just a couple of wears so they can make room for new items, claims Labour MP Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the environmental audit committee.
This results in more clothes being sent to landfill sites, with 235 million garments going to waste in 2017 alone, evidence submitted to the committee reveals.
“Charity shops can’t be the dumping ground for the high street’s dirty little secret – much of what they take back they can’t sell because of the quality and it’s very difficult to recycle the fibres,” Creagh told The Daily Telegraph.
“They are turning it away as they can’t sell it so fabric either goes to Europe or the developing world. It’s disrupting markets in other countries.”
A spokesperson from Oxfam added that their stores have seen a surge in donations in recent years. They think this may be due to the rise of fast fashion, which sees shops selling individual items of clothing for as little as £2.
Fashion bosses from leading luxury and high street retailers were asked to explain what they were doing to promote sustainability in a hearing in the House of Commons yesterday.
Executives from Primark, Topshop, Boohoo, Asos, Burberry and Marks and Spencer gathered to address some of the most pressing concerns and, according to Creagh, they have a long way to go if the UK is ever to achieve an eco-friendly fashion industry.
“Evidence we heard today justifies our concerns that the current system allows fashion retailers to mark their own homework when it comes to workers’ rights, fair pay and sustainability,” she said in a statement.
“Marks and Spencer are supposed to be a leading light in corporate responsibility, but even they pulled out of a scheme seeking to achieve living wages for garment workers through collective bargaining.”
The MP added that the committee was particularly unimpressed that Missguided CEO Nitin Passi refused to attend Parliament in person to answer questions about his supply chain.
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