Fashion Retailers Give the Gift of Excessive Waste This Christmas
As Christmas rapidly approaches, you may be looking to give a fashionable gift to your loved ones. But while you may have put a lot of thought into this gift, our retail choices have consequences for the environment. Fast moving fashion trends mean that many of our garments go to landfill after very little wear.
Did you know that 300,000 tonnes of clothing end up in landfill every year in the UK? An increasing cause of this is the public’s reliance on fast fashion retailers such as Primark, Pretty Little Thing (PLT), and BooHoo. The problem continues to grow. A study which analysed the carbon footprint of the fashion industry in the UK measured a 9.2 per cent increase in CO2 emissions. In the same light, for the beauty and make-up industry, 70 per cent of their waste comes from decorative packaging.
However, with a growing demand for fast fashion alternatives during the festive period, who’s responsibility is it to ensure that clothing is not continually thrown into landfill? Here, we look at how everyone can play a part in preventing the festive fast fashion fiasco.
It’s the most wasteful time of the year
Research by one waste management company, Reconomy, indicates the peak periods of fashion retailers since 2016 through Google search data. Fast fashion giant, Pretty Little Thing, showed a record increase of searches during Black Friday 2020 — up one-third on the previous year. While this may have been expected due to restrictions on attending physical retail locations during the coronavirus pandemic, the increase still represents a 92 per cent increase in Google searches for the brand since 2016. As well as excessive production waste, single use plastic is a heavy component of the process. From packaging to protection, are businesses ensuring that their materials are disposed of properly?
Pretty Little Thing was criticised for selling dresses at only £0.08 during the annual retail event. The low pricing is reflective of poorer quality and less fair working conditions compared to workers in more ethical retailers. Many commentators will reflect on whether these items are designed to be worn or created to be thrown away.
Waste is of course a big problem in the fashion industry with solutions still being curated. There have been a number of steps to bring greener processes to the sector. For example, Tree Hugger reported on a recent process that could tackle the initial carbon footprint caused by textile production. Making clothes uses up a lot of resources, such as water, fuel, and chemical dyes. Circular Systems is offering a solution to that — fibres made from food scraps. In fact, the initiative would solve two issues at once, by making textile production less wasteful and combating the food waste problem.
Circular Systems also has a technology in place to use existing scraps of textiles and discarded clothing and recycle them into new fibres. This means the company addresses both the environmental impact at the beginning of a textile cycle, with its creation, and at the end of its life, avoiding the landfill.
Dreaming of a green Christmas
Consumers can also ensure that a sustainable fashion industry is curated. Before buying clothes this Christmas, think about what alternatives are available:
- Refashion and Upcycle — something of a lost art, it certainly needs to see a revival! Here, instead of buying new clothes, the website encourages people to look at their old clothes and find ways to alter or combine items to make new outfits. The best part of this is modelling a totally unique item!
- Buying clothes — tips on how to “buy smart”, with an emphasis on clothes that will last, hiring options, swapping stations, or buying second-hand. Reconomy highlights which companies are sustainable giants in the fashion industry. Burberry, for example, has the most sustainable pledges out of the leading international fashion houses. How do these ethical strategies affect your buying intentions?
- Care and Repair — this section gives some great lifehacks on how to look after your clothes to keep them living longer. It also advises on how to repair clothes to give them a new lease of life.
- Unwanted clothes — for clothes that don’t fit, that you’ve grown out of, or no longer need, sometimes upcycling isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean you get to fling them away! Dispose of your clothes responsibly, with a range of different ways to sell, swap, or donate.
Exchange for Xmas
Of course, replacing your clothes every now and then is needed. However, you can ensure the impact of new clothing is limited by exchanging your old clothes for benefits. Stores often run exchange programmes for both clothes and beauty product packaging. A number of retail outlets have run exchange programmes in the past, where customers can make use of their local shops to drop off clothes for recycling. Sometimes, customers can even get discounts for doing so.
One clothing retail which offers a successful exchange programme is H&M. With the promise to accept any brand in any condition, H&M notes that it was the first brand to do a full-scale clothing recycling program in-store. Customers can bring down their old, unwanted clothes in exchange for a H&M voucher. The service is also offered in their concept stores, at Monki and at & Other Stories. The old clothes are marked as rewear, reuse, or recycle. Meanwhile, LUSH offers money off when people bring back their cleaned and emptied tubs for recycling.
Christmas can be enjoyable without being wasteful, and this can begin with a sustainable fashion industry. The fashion industry moves so quickly, with updated Christmas wardrobes leaving a trail of discarded clothing in its wake. Businesses need to ensure they have a responsible waste management system in place to ensure less waste hits the landfill.