Half of clothes sold by online fashion brands made from virgin plastic

Posted on Friday, June 11, 2021 by Charlotte HannaNo comments

From the Guardian 11/06/2021

Fast-fashion boom fuelling rise in use of synthetic fibres made from fossil fuels, study shows

Approximately half of the clothes sold by large online fashion brands such as Boohoo and Asos are made entirely from virgin plastic materials such as polyester, despite a push to reduce the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry.

An analysis of 10,000 items added to the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites over a fortnight in May found an average of 49% were made entirely of new plastics such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. In some stores just 1% contained recycled fabric, according to the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) study.

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Woman shopping on Asos website
An analysis of 10,000 items on the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites found an average of 49% were made of new plastics. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock
 

 

 
 

Approximately half of the clothes sold by large online fashion brands such as Boohoo and Asos are made entirely from virgin plastic materials such as polyester, despite a push to reduce the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry.

An analysis of 10,000 items added to the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites over a fortnight in May found an average of 49% were made entirely of new plastics such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. In some stores just 1% contained recycled fabric, according to the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) study.

 

The fast-fashion boom has caused the use of synthetic fibres, which are made using fossil fuels, to double over the past 20 years. These “cheap” materials, said Josie Warden, the RSA’s head of regenerative design who co-authored the report, had fuelled an “explosion of fast, throwaway fashion”.

“These fabrics may be cheap at the point of sale, but they form part of a petrochemical economy which is fuelling runaway climate change and pollution,” she added. “The production of synthetic fibres uses large amounts of energy.”

The climate crisis has increased pressure on the fashion industry to mend its ways. In the UK 300,000 tonnes of clothing is burned or buried every year, leading to brands such as PrettyLittleThing and Missguided being criticised for encouraging unsustainable consumption with gimmicks such as 8p dresses and £1 bikinis.

Some young shoppers may not realise how different types of fabrics are made, the report suggests.

The sheer volume of clothing produced by the websites was “shocking” said Warden, who suggested consumers should see these synthetic fabrics as part of the same problem as single-use plastic packaging.

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“We can no longer use plastics to create poorly made garments which are designed to be worn only a handful of times. These use large amounts of energy and create environmental damage in their production, and can take thousands of years to break down,” she said.

“Other materials, such as cotton and viscose, can also create environmental problems, so ultimately it is the scale of production that needs to change.”

After revelations of poor pay and conditions in some of the factories it used, Boohoo, which owns PrettyLittleThing, has embarked on a complete overhaul of its supply chain. With 80% of its clothes made from either cotton or polyester, it has pledged that by 2025 these fabrics will be either recycled or more sustainable.

A spokesperson for Missguided said the brand had dramatically reduced its use of virgin plastic but agreed “there’s more to do”. It said 10% of its products would use recycled fibres by the end of 2021, and 25% by the end of 2022.

Asos highlighted action it was taking, including using more recycled synthetics and sustainable cotton and introducing a curated responsible edit to guide shoppers to clothes made with sustainable materials.

The RSA is calling for a per-item “plastics tax” on clothing imported into or produced in the UK using virgin plastics, although in 2019 the government rejected recommendations from MPs to bring in a 1p per garment levy. More simply, it suggests consumers buy less and make fewer impulse purchases.

… congratulations on being one of our top readers globally. Did you know you’ve read 

 in the last year? Thank you for choosing the Guardian on so many occasions.

 

Since we started publishing 200 years ago, tens of millions have placed their trust in the Guardian’s high-impact journalism, turning to us in moments of crisis, uncertainty, solidarity and hope. More than 1.5 million readers, in 180 countries, have recently taken the step to support us financially – keeping us open to all, and fiercely independent.

With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we can set our own agenda and provide trustworthy journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence, offering a counterweight to the spread of misinformation. When it’s never mattered more, we can investigate and challenge without fear or favour.

Unlike many others, Guardian journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of global events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action.

We aim to offer readers a comprehensive, international perspective on critical events shaping our world – from the Black Lives Matter movement, to the new American administration, Brexit, and the world's slow emergence from a global pandemic. We are committed to upholding our reputation for urgent, powerful reporting on the climate emergency, and made the decision to reject advertising from fossil fuel companies, divest from the oil and gas industries, and set a course to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

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Woman shopping on Asos website
An analysis of 10,000 items on the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites found an average of 49% were made of new plastics. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock
 

 

 
 

Approximately half of the clothes sold by large online fashion brands such as Boohoo and Asos are made entirely from virgin plastic materials such as polyester, despite a push to reduce the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry.

An analysis of 10,000 items added to the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites over a fortnight in May found an average of 49% were made entirely of new plastics such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. In some stores just 1% contained recycled fabric, according to the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) study.

 

The fast-fashion boom has caused the use of synthetic fibres, which are made using fossil fuels, to double over the past 20 years. These “cheap” materials, said Josie Warden, the RSA’s head of regenerative design who co-authored the report, had fuelled an “explosion of fast, throwaway fashion”.

“These fabrics may be cheap at the point of sale, but they form part of a petrochemical economy which is fuelling runaway climate change and pollution,” she added. “The production of synthetic fibres uses large amounts of energy.”

The climate crisis has increased pressure on the fashion industry to mend its ways. In the UK 300,000 tonnes of clothing is burned or buried every year, leading to brands such as PrettyLittleThing and Missguided being criticised for encouraging unsustainable consumption with gimmicks such as 8p dresses and £1 bikinis.

Some young shoppers may not realise how different types of fabrics are made, the report suggests.

The sheer volume of clothing produced by the websites was “shocking” said Warden, who suggested consumers should see these synthetic fabrics as part of the same problem as single-use plastic packaging.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email

“We can no longer use plastics to create poorly made garments which are designed to be worn only a handful of times. These use large amounts of energy and create environmental damage in their production, and can take thousands of years to break down,” she said.

“Other materials, such as cotton and viscose, can also create environmental problems, so ultimately it is the scale of production that needs to change.”

After revelations of poor pay and conditions in some of the factories it used, Boohoo, which owns PrettyLittleThing, has embarked on a complete overhaul of its supply chain. With 80% of its clothes made from either cotton or polyester, it has pledged that by 2025 these fabrics will be either recycled or more sustainable.

A spokesperson for Missguided said the brand had dramatically reduced its use of virgin plastic but agreed “there’s more to do”. It said 10% of its products would use recycled fibres by the end of 2021, and 25% by the end of 2022.

Asos highlighted action it was taking, including using more recycled synthetics and sustainable cotton and introducing a curated responsible edit to guide shoppers to clothes made with sustainable materials.

The RSA is calling for a per-item “plastics tax” on clothing imported into or produced in the UK using virgin plastics, although in 2019 the government rejected recommendations from MPs to bring in a 1p per garment levy. More simply, it suggests consumers buy less and make fewer impulse purchases.

… congratulations on being one of our top readers globally. Did you know you’ve read 

 in the last year? Thank you for choosing the Guardian on so many occasions.

 

Since we started publishing 200 years ago, tens of millions have placed their trust in the Guardian’s high-impact journalism, turning to us in moments of crisis, uncertainty, solidarity and hope. More than 1.5 million readers, in 180 countries, have recently taken the step to support us financially – keeping us open to all, and fiercely independent.

With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we can set our own agenda and provide trustworthy journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence, offering a counterweight to the spread of misinformation. When it’s never mattered more, we can investigate and challenge without fear or favour.

Unlike many others, Guardian journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of global events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action.

We aim to offer readers a comprehensive, international perspective on critical events shaping our world – from the Black Lives Matter movement, to the new American administration, Brexit, and the world's slow emergence from a global pandemic. We are committed to upholding our reputation for urgent, powerful reporting on the climate emergency, and made the decision to reject advertising from fossil fuel companies, divest from the oil and gas industries, and set a course to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and sustains our future. Support the Guardian from as little as £1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.

Accepted payment methods: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and PayPal
 
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