Plastic and fashion concern for Mary Portas

Fashion retail tzar Mary Portas has this week joined forces with 40 health experts and cross-party politicians in calling for clothes to label how much plastic they contain. 

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell MP, and Conservative peer Lord Swinfen were among politicians to sign a letter calling for the measure.

“We’re becoming increasingly aware of the textile industry’s impact on the plastic crisis. Unbeknown to people, the essential act of washing clothing is resulting in millions of plastic microfibres polluting nature.  Consumers, who are more environmentally conscious than ever before, want to do the right thing and it’s only right they’re given the option when buying products to see what impact they will have.  

“Weaning ourselves off plastic is going to be hard so it’s great that this new innovation greenhouse is now available for all fashion brands to co-create plastic free fashion.” – Retail expert and broadcaster Mary Portas

While from the world of fashion Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution co-founder, Nina Marenzi, Future Fabrics Expo founder, and Sara Arnold, Fashion Act Now co-founder, got behind the call to Government to force fashion brands to label how much plastic clothing contains.  In recent years plastic has become more common in fashion with 60 per cent of all material made into clothing being plastic the experts note.

While some people understand that polyester is plastic, the increase in new types of plastic means people are often unaware their clothing contains it. With a number of studies pointing out potential risks associated with plastic microfibres, the experts want to make sure consumers are clear when they are wearing plastic clothes.

“Fashion is contributing significant amounts of plastic pollution to our natural habitats, but so far there has been very little accountability. The Government says it wants the UK to be a world leader in tackling the plastic crisis. If this is the case then it must consider the textile industry’s role in fuelling it.” – Former Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP

The letter, organised by global solutions organisation A Plastic Planet, raises concerns for plastic pollution stemming from the textile industry and follows a report released yesterday which found 60 per cent of sustainability claims made by fashion brands constitute as greenwashing. While clothing is labelled as containing plastic fibres like polyester, a recent poll found 72 percent of Britons are unaware of the amount of plastic used to make clothing, and two-thirds are not aware of fashion’s impact on plastic pollution.

As clothes are washed they shed plastic fibres which then enter the environment, with more than a third of all microplastics released into the ocean estimated to derive from synthetic fibres. Laundry alone causes half a million tonnes of these microfibres to be released into the seas every year – the equivalent of three billion polyester shirts.

The letter has been signed by a host of academics in the plastic microfibre space including Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health Dr Shanna Swan, Dr Janelle Knox-Hayes, Associate Professor at MIT, and Professor Ian Croudace of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton.

Some 30 cross-party parliamentarians have signed the letter, with other MPs backing the call including Labour MPs Tony Lloyd and Navendu Mishra, SNP MP Stewart McDonald, and Liberal Democrat MPs Sarah Olney and Daisy Cooper.

Campaigners believe a clear labelling system will help consumers make informed decisions when considering the environmental impact of the clothing they buy.

“For years the fashion industry’s impact on plastic pollution has gone under the radar. We are never going to collect or recycle these tiny toxic fibres. Shoppers deserve to know the impact their clothes are having on the planet. The Government must listen to public demand and introduce mandatory labels to show the hidden plastic in clothing.” – Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder

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