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    MPs Urge UK Gov't to Tax Clothing to Reduce Waste, Promote Sustainable Fashion

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    The Environmental Audit Committee is urging the UK government to tax fashion retailers in a bid to reduce clothing waste and facilitate recycling, a report published on Tuesday revealed.

    The EAC report entitled "Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability" advocates taxing fashion companies one penny per item of clothing produced, in addition to rewarding brands for offering clothing repairs to reduce the environmental footprint of their products. 

    The report slams Britain's 'fast fashion' practices, where businesses accelerate fashion collections each year and demand quick turnovers for lower prices. The business model began in the 1980s and requires companies to react quickly to "offer new products to meet consumer demands", the report said.

    "Fashion shouldn't cost the earth," Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP said. "In the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. 'Fast fashion' means we overconsume and under use clothes. As a result, we get rid of over a million tonnes of clothes, with £140m worth going to landfill, every year." 

    She added that fashion retailers must take responsibility via "a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme" and urged the government to "end the era of throwaway fashion by incentivising companies that offer sustainable designs and repair services". 

    ​Mrs. Creagh also accused fashion retailers of chasing "the cheap needle around the planet" by offshoring production in places with cheap wages and little to no trade union rights. "Illegally low pay, the use of child labour, prison labour, forced labour and bonded labour in the global garment supply chain," she said.

    The government must also strengthen the Modern Slavery Act by 2022 to require large companies to ensure "forced labour is not in their supply chains", she said whilst citing accusations against companies such as Foot Locker and Versace. 

    Margarita Goroskhevich, founder of sustainable fashion company Allriot Clothing, told Sputnik that the new EPR scheme "should only apply to dead stock" and that taxing the entire fashion industry "doesn't sound like a great idea".  

    "Given the competitive nature of the market, fashion brands and retailers are under extreme pressure to keep prices low," Ms. Goroskhevich said. "It's all about margins. Taxing them more would force them to cut costs and choose lower quality materials, more environmentally damaging production methods, and cheaper labour. This helps no one." 

    The government should educate consumers on the environmental impact of overconsumption, in addition to incentivising the fashion industry to "donate clothing and dispose of dead stock in a responsible way," she added. 

    READ MORE: UK Committee Grills Cabinet on Britain's 'Toxic Love Affair' With Fast Fashion

    "I believe that consumers should take a more proactive approach to eco-friendly shopping by choosing environmentally-conscious retailers, and boycotting fast-fashion," Ms. Goroskhevich said. "Consumer trends drive fashion forward."

    "Choosing ethical fashion today sends a powerful message to industry analysts and paves the way for more ethical fashion options in the future," she said, adding that consumers should look for "trusted ethical certifications, such as FairTrade, WRAP, OEKO-Tex, Fair Wear," and others to "ensure that the clothing they buy in are produced in sweatshop-free and environmentally-friendly factories".

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    Tags:
    sweatshop, public inquiry, retail, Recycling, fashion industry, inquiry, clothing, report, climate change, UK Modern Slavery Act, Environmental Audit Committee, House of Commons Select Committee, UK Parliament, House of Commons, Mary Creagh, United Kingdom
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