The EU has announced plans for a fast fashion crackdown. Why is this necessary?
Did you know that as little as 1% of all the clothing produced across our planet is recycled?
It’s a shockingly low percentage, but things get worse when you look closely at the textile industry. The quantity of fabric that each individual in the EU uses has a carbon footprint of approximately 270kg. And to make that bolt of fabric takes 391kg of raw materials and around 400 square metres of valuable land.
For some perspective, the population of the EU in 2021 was 447 million.
Clearly, our planet cannot continue to support such destructive production. Fortunately, the European Union (EU) is moving to do something about.
On 30 March, the EU announced plans for a fast fashion crackdown with the European Parliament set to discuss new proposals designed to safeguard more sustainable practices going forward.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is when clothes are taken from design, through production and into the stores as rapidly as possible. It’s a process which emphasises ‘value for money’ over quality and pays little heed to the possible environmental costs involved.
But affordable clothing is great! Right?
Well, the problem with this is that to get those garments from drawing board to wardrobe at lightning speed – and as cheaply as possible – sustainable practices are frequently sacrificed.
The characteristics of fast fashion are cheap, often man-made fabrics, poorly paid workers and bad quality end products. The very nature of fast fashion is that none of that is of huge concern to the producer or consumer as no sooner is the item in the shops that the next new ‘must-have’ skirt is being churned out.
For more on why this is bad for the environment, please see our detailed post Fast Fashion: A Modern Curse
Not Only ‘Fast Fashion’
Although here at Sustainable Clothing we focus on the things we wear, these swift production/low accountability principles aren’t only found in the fashion industry. It seems like a large proportion of consumer goods – from the latest summer dress to the newest smartphone on the market – have been made to be wearable or usable for just long enough to last until the next trend/model comes along.
If your dishwasher or vacuum cleaner break down, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone either willing, or able to repair them. All too often, the answer to a broken appliance is to replace it with a new one. Obsolescence is built in to our white goods and clothing alike and to hell with the environmental costs involved.
EU Leading the Fast Fashion Crackdown
This rampant consumerism is exactly what the EU hopes to check with its proposed fast fashion crackdown.
New rules have been put forward which stipulate that clothing, smartphones and furniture are easier to repair and enjoy a longer life span. The aim is that these goals will be introduced at every step of an item’s production – from design to manufacture, to repair and ultimately recycling.
As far as clothing is concerned, what does this mean?
- The promotion of sustainable fabrics over highly processed textiles, which often leech toxins into the environment (and sometimes their wearer).
- Clothing manufacturers verifying that their products are eco-friendly.
- Clothing manufacturers ensuring that their products are durable and long-lasting.
- Advice for consumers on repairing, reusing and, once they are no longer required, recycling their clothing.
Ioana Popescu of the Environmental Coalition on Standards (an environmentally focused NGO) described the goals of the proposal thus:
“The Commission seeks to put a hold on fast fashion by introducing rules on textiles to be used in the European market.”
The hope is that cheap, poorly made, disposable garments will be replaced by quality items that are worn numerous times and are less likely to be thrown away in favour of the next hot trend.
This is slow fashion rather than fast fashion.
We hope the rest of the world takes note and that a fast fashion crackdown becomes a global cause.