Top UK fast-fashion brands use virgin plastics

United Kingdom
Published:  14 June, 2021
Credit: Pawel Czerwinski

A study looking into the use of plastics in the UK’s fast-fashion industry has found that 49% of the clothing from top brands such as Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing, Missguided and ASOS is made entirely using virgin plastics, reports Fashion United. The study was conducted by the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA), which analysed 10,000 items of clothing from across the four brands.

Boohoo was the biggest culprit with 67% of its fashion made entirely from fabrics derived from petrochemicals such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and polyamide. That was followed by PrettyLittleThing (66%), Missguided (62%) and Asos (49%).

It also found that an average of 80% of items listed on the brands' websites contained some amount of new plastics, rising to 89% for PrettyLittleThing, followed by Boohoo and Missguided (each 84%) and Asos (65%).
Fashion United quoted an MIT study which found that the average polyester shirt produces 5.5kg of CO2, 20% more than its cotton equivalent and the same emissions as driving 13 miles in a passenger car.
The RSA study found a “vanishingly small” amount of recycled fabrics are being used by the four brands. The percentage of clothing containing recycled material for Missguided was the highest at just 5%, followed by Asos (4%), Boohoo (2%) and PrettyLittleThing (1%).

A separate RSA study in early 2021 suggested there is an “awareness gap” when it comes to shoppers and the clothing they buy, with just 49% of those who regularly buy fast-fashion admitting to buying clothing that contains synthetic materials.

The RSA is calling on the UK government to explore a per-item “plastics tax” on clothing imported into or produced in the UK containing virgin plastics. It also said fast-fashion brands should look at new ways to promote second-hand clothing and other circular business models such as rental and repair services, and should regularly publish statistics on how much plastic goes into their clothing.

Source: Fashion United