19 Jun 2019

Britain rebuffs call for 'fast fashion' levy to tackle labour abuse, waste

9:57 am on 19 June 2019

Britain's government rejected calls from MPs to introduce a new levy on clothing sales to help tackle labour abuses and environmental damage in the country's fashion industry.

Shoppers looking at a rail of clothes in a mall (Stock photo).

Photo: 123RF

Britain, which buys more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, has seen a boom in "fast fashion" with a parliamentary committee hearing that some workers were paid as little as £3.50 per hour - half the minimum wage.

Greenpeace said 73 percent of textile fibres used to produce more than 100 billion garments each year ended up in landfill or incinerators after they have been used.

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee recommended a raft of changes to reform what it said was an exploitative and unsustainable industry and accused ministers of being "out of step" with public opinion by refusing to act.

The committee had proposed a one pence charge on every item of clothing sold to raise investment for textile recycling.

"Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth," said committee chairwoman Mary Creagh in a statement.

The government said it was working with the fashion industry to reduce waste and has already increased resources to ensure all British workers were paid at least the minimum wage, in its response to the committee's report.

"We recognise how crucial it is for the environmental and social and impacts to be well managed, particularly in this era of fast fashion," it wrote.

Ministers cited the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), a voluntary agreement which sets targets for the industry to reduce carbon emissions, water and waste. The government also maintains it is better to find outlets for waste textiles rather than simply imposing a landfill ban.

Among the proposals from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) were:

  • A 1p charge per garment on producers to fund better recycling of clothes;
  • Ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled instead;
  • Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million;
  • Tax changes to reward reuse, repair and recycling - to support responsible fashion companies.

- Reuters / BBC