Charity shops are being flooded with poor-quality clothes that they have to turn away, as fast fashion means shirts and dresses are worn once and binned, the head of the environment select committee has said.
Labour MP and chair of the committee Mary Creagh said the fashion industry is failing to cut waste – as “the whole industry is based on us buying more than we need, and not valuing an item of clothing when it comes to the end of its life.”
She told The Telegraph: “Charity shops can’t be the dumping ground for the high street’s dirty little secret – much of what they take back they can’t sell because of the quality and it’s very difficult to recycle the fibres.
“They are turning it away as they can’t sell it so fabric either goes to Europe or the developing world. It’s disrupting markets in other countries.”
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A spokeswoman from Oxfam said: “Our shops tell us they have seen an increase in clothing donations in the past five years, and this is probably due to fast fashion.”
The Commons Environmental Audit Committee is examining the impact of clothes production and on Tuesday quizzed executives from Primark, Topshop, Boohoo.com and Marks & Spencer.
In pictures: The eco crisis lurking in your wardrobe (Deutsche Welle)
Mrs Creagh asked Primark how they can justify selling T-Shirts for as low as £2. The company responded by arguing they keep prices low as they do not spend money on advertising and have tight profit margins.
She told The Telegraph: “If you buy an item of clothing for £5 and wear it two or three times, it’s a bit more than a coffee, so they’re selling clothes at pocket money prices, they are meant to be worn once or twice and then discarded.
Watch: How Hong Kong fights against fast fashion trend (France 24)
Because of over-consumption of clothing, 235m garments were sent to landfill last year, according to submissions sent to the Environmental Audit Committee.
Recycling charity Textile Reuse & International Development (Traid), found that only a fraction of clothes earmarked for charity shops and recycling were acceptable for re-distribution.
Traid submitted evidence to the committee that showed 650,000 tonnes of clothing were collected for reuse and recycling in 2014, but a survey two years later by the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan found just 39pc was donated to charity shops.