McCartney slams fashion’s throwaway culture

Expensive habit: It is estimated that $460 billion worth of clothing is thrown out every year.

Should we rent clothes instead of buying them? A new report backed by Stella McCartney has exposed the catastrophic environmental impact of the “incredibly wasteful” fashion industry.

When people think of environmental issues they may imagine dirty power stations or rivers choked with plastic. But some of our most harmful pollutants could actually be in our wardrobes.

That is according to a report released yesterday which claimed that the fashion industry is causing “dramatic environmental” damage.

The study estimates that the fashion business creates 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year — more than all flights and shipping combined.

Clothing-based pollution also reaches the sea. When some materials are washed they release plastic microfibres. The report claims that half a million tonnes of this plastic has ended up in the ocean — more plastic than 50 billion bottles.

Campaigner Dame Ellen MacArthur blamed this on the “take-make-dispose” culture of fast fashion, in which people buy cheap garments and quickly bin them.

One solution the study suggests is for customers to stop owning clothes altogether. It claims that if people rented their clothes instead, fewer items would be wasted.

The idea might just catch on. Dubbed the “Spotify for fashion” company, Rent the Runway offers a “closet in the cloud” in which customers pay a monthly fee to rent clothes.

But should we really rent all our clothes?

Generation Rent

Entrepreneur Anna Bance declared: “Ownership is becoming more irrelevant than ever before,” and many agree. The environmental benefits are obvious, but it is also where society is heading. Young people rent everything — from houses to music. Why should clothes be any different?

Clothes are too personal, counter others. There is a pleasure in owning and cherishing a special jumper. When you own clothes they become a part of your identity. Simply putting everything up for rent makes this identity cheap and disposable.

You Decide

  1. Should we all rent our clothes?


  1. Think about all the different items of clothing you currently own. As a percentage how much of these items do you no longer wear at all? If you like, share this figure with the people around you. Did you come up with similar percentages? Think of some ways in which you could dispose of your unwanted clothes in a sustainable way.

Some People Say...

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody's buying far too many clothes.”

Vivienne Westwood

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Dumping clothes and textiles in landfill is very expensive. The report estimates that cost in the UK at £82 million every year. In America clothes are worn for approximately a quarter of the global average time.
What do we not know?
If current trends continue, the amount of clothing produced will triple by 2050. But with the rise of rental clothing this projection may not come true.

Word Watch

A study published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Plastic microfibres
These tiny plastic particles are ingested by plankton.
Dame Ellen MacArthur
Record-breaking solo sailor. In 2005 she broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. In 2010 she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
One solution
Other proposed solutions include using renewable materials and phasing out harmful substances like microfibres.
Anna Bance
Co-founder of Girl Meets Dress, a website which rents out designer clothes.

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