The relationship between plastic and fast fashion still going strong, report says

Up to 89% of items contain new plastics

Like other players in the fashion industry, fast fashion firms have often committed to start — or continue — efforts to improve eco-responsibility, with the intention of proposing new collections that are more respectful of the planet — and of textile workers. However, research carried out in May shows the majority of items sold online were made at least partially from fibers derived from petrochemicals, such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and polyamide.

The RSA report states that, on average, 80% of the items listed on the fashion websites surveyed contained new plastics. According to the findings, Asos appears to fare better than the other sites studied, with 65% of clothing containing new plastics, while PrettyLittleThing comes off particularly poorly, with no less than 89% of clothing made with new plastics.And the findings are just as illuminating when it comes to items made wholly from plastic, with an average of 49% of the clothes on these websites made entirely from new petrochemicals. And that figure that reaches up to 60% for some of the fast fashion brands studied.

Low levels of recycled materials

While some fast fashion giants have focused their recent marketing on sustainability and circularity, with more recycled materials, the RSA report reveals that, in reality, these only represent a tiny fraction of the fibers used to manufacture their clothes. On average, only 3% of the clothes listed were made with recycled materials. And for some brands that falls as low as 1%.The study also notes that, across all the websites analyzed, certain garments containing both recycled and virgin plastics were still found to feature the term “recycled” in the product title.Moreover, consumers who regularly turn to fast fashion aren’t necessarily aware of the amount of plastic that may be in their clothing. The RSA reports that only 49% of frequent fast fashion shoppers admit to buying clothing that contains synthetic materials.* Data was collected from the Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing websites between May 11 and May 29, 2021. The study analyzed recent women’s items to provide insight into the current production of clothing from these brands. Information about the composition of the garments was collected from the publicly available descriptions on each website. 

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