Fast Fashion Boom Promotes the Overuse of Virgin Plastics

A recent report finds that almost half of clothing from ASOS, Boohoo, Missguided and Pretty Little Thing promote the overuse of virgin plastic.

Credit: The Guardian

A new study by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufacture and Commerce finds that roughly half of clothes being sold online by fast fashion outlets have a new plastic fabrication. The most frequently seen fabrics are nylon, acrylic and polyester. The RSA is calling for a “plastics tax”, which applies per item which uses virgin plastics in the UK. In 2019, the government saw it as unnecessary to introduce a 1p garment levy based regardless of MP’s recommendations.

Two-week Investigation

In May, a two-week investigation launched which considers various items from ASOS, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo for analysis. Despite the fashion industry’s current focus on sustainability, research suggests that 49 per cent of garments include synthetic fibres made from fossil fuels. In some such stores, only 1 per cent of clothing uses recycled fabric, according to the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) study.

Fast Fashion Boom

Credit: Fashion United

The rise of fast fashion has seen a 100 per cent increase in the use of synthetic materials in the last twenty years. Josie Warden is the RSA’s head of regenerative design co-author on the report. Warden explains the “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.”

Source: The Guardian

Climate Crisis

Sustainability currently sits low on the priority list for brands such as PrettyLittleThing and Misguided. They have come under fire for encouraging unsustainable consumption. These practices include gimmicks such as 8p garments. Due to the climate crisis, an increased emphasis has been placed on sustainable practices in the fashion industry. The industry has a responsibility to young shoppers to update their practices as customers are likely unaware of the differences between fabrics and the impact made by their shopping choices. Warden states,

“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,”

Source: The Guardian


Credit: Vogue

Synthetic fabrics are cheap at the point of sale. Unfortunately, their contribution to a larger petrochemical economy is exacerbating climate change and pollution. The materials require a large amount of energy to create and can take thousands of years to break down. Due to the role materials play within the climate crisis, the RSA is campaigning for a “plastics tax”. This will include clothing coming into the UK.

“Industry wide, these dubious practices, which extend beyond the supply chain, are coming under increased scrutiny – last July Boohoo’s poor working conditions and exploitation of garment workers was linked to the rapid spread of coronavirus in Leicester.”

Source: Dazed

Boohoo, which also owns PrettyLittleThing, has recently proposed changes to its policy. The brand pledges that 80 per cent of products will use sustainable materials by 2025. Misguided has promised that twenty-five per cent of its clothing will utilise recycled materials by the same date. A Missguided spokesperson says that the brand has dramatically reduced its use of virgin plastic, however, agreed that,

 “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.

Source: The Guardian

As a result of sustainability changes, ASOS is also highlighting action. The brand claim to be using more recyclables and sustainable cotton. ASOS has also introduced a curated responsible edit to consequently guide its shoppers towards clothes that are more sustainable.

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