Stella McCartney and Ellen MacArthur call for fashion sustainability

By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

image copyrightStella McCartney

Stella McCartney is calling for radical changes to the "incredibly wasteful" fashion industry.

The designer is backing a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which claims half of High Street fashion is disposed of within a year.

It also says the amount of clothing bought has doubled in 15 years, but the number of times an item is worn has fallen by 20%.

The report is backed by industry giants including H&M and Nike.

"Today's textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting," said Dame Ellen MacArthur, a round-the-world sailor and environmental campaigner.

The report by her foundation says that 50% of the clothes sent for landfill in the UK could be recycled.

Other environmental effects include the depositing in the ocean of half a million tonnes of tiny synthetic fibres, which cannot be cleaned up.

As a result, the foundation says that we could end up eating our own clothes as they re-enter the food chain.

Paying more?

Stella McCartney said: "What really excites me about [the report] is that it provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment. "

The report has a list of suggestions as to how to change the way clothing is produced to make it more sustainable:

  • Phase out substances of concern and create safer materials
  • Transform the way clothes are designed, sold and used to break free from their increasingly disposable nature
  • Radically improve recycling by transforming clothing design, collection and reprocessing
  • Make effective use of resources and move to renewable inputs

The report taps into a growing move among consumers towards more sustainable living.

In a recent survey by consultants Kantar Futures, 80% of respondents said they would pay more for products that lasted longer.

"Consumers are placing greater importance on the long-term benefits of a product, rather than cost-saving options that are seemingly more disposable," said J Walker Smith from Kantar Futures.

But market research firm Mintel said good intentions did not always result in a change in behaviour.

Its research suggests that 80% of women aged 16-24 were mainly looking for low prices.

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