Could a ‘Fast Fashion Tax’ Help Make the Industry More Sustainable?

When it comes to fast fashion, few retailers have the speed and scale of the U.K.’s industry giants. But companies like ASOS, Boohoo and Missguided may soon have to pay a price for the flood of new clothes and accessories they put into the world every year.

British MPs are calling for a penny tax on every item sold by fashion retailers, which would fund a £35 million ($45.8 million) annual recycling program. The recommendation is one of several included in a new report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which in October wrote a letter to 10 of the country’s biggest high-street brands asking them to disclose their environmental impact.

According to the report, the taxation and recycling program would reward retailers that made conscientious efforts to improve sustainability in their supply chains, and penalize those that did not. The U.K. consumes more clothing per person than any other country in Europe, it points out, and every year, £140 million worth ends up in landfills.

The committee is also advocating for fashion retailers whose turnovers exceed £36 million to set and reach environmental targets in compliance with WRAP’s Sustainability Clothing Action Plan.

“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth,” MP and EAC Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said in a statement. “Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with a huge social and environmental price tag: carbon emissions, water use, chemical and plastic pollution are all destroying our environment.”

While most of the onus will be on companies, the MPs also want to encourage citizens to learn how to repair and reuse what they already own, in part by reducing taxes on repair services and offering lessons in school on creating and mending clothing.

“The government must act to end the era of throwaway fashion by incentivizing companies that offer sustainable designs and repair services,” Creagh continued. “Children should be taught the joy of making and mending clothes in school as an antidote to anxiety and the mental health crisis in teenagers. Consumers must play their part by buying less, mending, renting and sharing more.”

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