Plastic in fashion

New poll reveals 8 in 10 want a ‘plastic warning label’ for clothes

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 3 July 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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A landmark new poll has revealed 72% of Brits are unaware of the amount of plastic used to make clothing, while two-thirds of respondents were not aware of fashion’s impact on plastic pollution.

81% of respondents want the government to make it mandatory for brands to introduce labelling that shows whether plastic is present in their clothing and accessories.

Support for a plastics label

More than 40 parliamentarians, academics and campaigners have backed this labelling system in an open letter to coincide with the poll.

Signatories include retail expert and broadcaster Mary Portas; author and Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health Dr Shanna Swan; Fashion Revolution co-founder Orsola de Castro and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

‘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.’

CAROLINE LUCAS MP
Former leader of the Green Party

Plastic Free Fashion

The Yonder poll of 2,091 UK adults was commissioned by global solutions organisation A Plastic Planet.

It is part of A Plastic Planet’s new Plastic Free Fashion campaign – a movement designed to curb the industry’s contribution to plastic pollution.

A Plastic Planet has also launched a new open source plastic-free materials innovation hub on Ubuntoo’s solutions platform, bringing together innovators in textiles and sustainability with the fashion industry to accelerate solutions.

‘For years the fashion industry’s impact on plastic pollution has gone under the radar. But now the truth is known on the huge volumes of fossil fuels being used to make our clothing and the plastic microfibres that are being shed into our air as we wear them, and flushed down our drains with every wash.

‘We are never going to collect or recycle these tiny toxic fibres. They will pollute our planet for centuries. This is about transparency and choice. Shoppers deserve to know the impact their clothes are having on the planet. Without clear labelling, we cannot choose to change. The government must listen to public demand and introduce mandatory labels to show the hidden plastic in clothing.

‘We know change is hard for the fashion industry, who have been using plastic as the cheap and easy default for decades. That’s why we are also launching the Plastic Free Fashion innovation greenhouse today – totally free and open source for brands to connect with new materials and systems.’

SIAN SUTHERLAND
A Plastic Planet co-founder

Plastic in fashion

Some 60% of all material made into clothing is plastic.

As clothes are washed, they shed plastic synthetic fibres which then enter the environment.

More than a third of all microplastics released into the ocean are 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.

While some 70 million barrels of oil are used each year just to make polyester, with its production releasing up to three times more carbon than natural materials.

‘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.’

MARY PORTAS
Retail expert and broadcaster

Labels for hidden plastics

With the majority of Britons unaware of fashion’s contribution to plastic pollution, the open letter accompanying the poll urges the government to implement a labelling system.

A similar label is being rolled out under EU legislation to show where hidden plastic is present in certain single-use items.

The group warns that if the government is serious about combating the plastic crisis, it must tackle plastic pollution stemming from the fashion industry.

The letter has been backed by a host of academics in the plastic microfibre space and some 30 cross-party parliamentarians.

Accountability for plastics

Campaigners warn there must be far greater onus placed on plastic pollution deriving from the fashion industry, believing a clear labelling system will help consumers make informed decisions when considering the environmental impact of the clothing they buy.

They also say a label will make brands far more accountable for the plastic present in their clothing and accessories, as consumers look for more environmentally friendly products.

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