Boohoo’s recycled clothes ‘will not solve fast fashion waste’

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Boohoo’s first recycled range will be made with reclaimed plastics

“If someone really cared about buying ethically sourced, green clothes then they wouldn’t shop at Boohoo,” shopper Camilla tells the BBC on Oxford Street.

She is commenting on the fast fashion retailer’s first recycled clothing range – made with reclaimed plastics – which was unveiled this week.

The 22-year-old’s view is not surprising, given the millions of low cost, fast fashion clothes that Boohoo sells every year.

But while it’s easy to dismiss the move as a marketing gimmick, Boohoo claims it is planning other green initiatives, and others have welcomed the new collection as a “starting point”.

“It is good for people to try recycled clothes and see that they are just like normal clothes,” says shopper Esme, 16.

“I’m glad they are engaging because they are unlikely to change their supply chain overnight,” adds Dr Patsy Perry, senior lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester.

Boohoo says its 34-piece range is made with recycled polyester that had been destined for landfills and uses no environmentally unfriendly dyes or chemicals.

The dresses, bodysuits, flares and crop tops have also been made entirely in the UK to cut air pollution, it says.

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Zara is one of a growing number of retailers to launch recycled collections

However, some have noted that the range was unveiled on the same day the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) issued a critical report on the fast fashion industry that mentioned Boohoo.

The MPs warned companies were creating huge amounts of waste by selling cheap clothes designed only to be worn a few times.

They also said the synthetic fabrics used to make such garments shed micro-fibres when washed, polluting waterways.

“The problem of clothing waste driven by rising volumes and lower prices in recent years are unlikely to be addressed by initiatives [like Boohoo’s recycled range],” says Professor Stella Claxton of Nottingham Trent University, who gave evidence to the EAC.

“We know that too many garments that are disposed of through retailer take-back schemes or in charity collection bins will eventually find their way into landfill.”

She also questions just how green Boohoo’s recycled fabric will be, noting that even recycled polyester clothing can take hundreds of years to decompose.

“The garments are likely to shed microfibres into waterways when they’re machine washed, just like the non recycled versions,” she adds.

Financially viable?

In its report, the EAC made 18 proposals, including a 1p charge per garment on producers to fund better recycling of clothes, and a ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be recycled instead.

But the government has said already it will adopt none of the policies.

In that light, Dr Perry thinks Boohoo – and others retailers that have launched green clothing ranges – should be encouraged for doing so voluntarily.

“The real test will be if Boohoo can make this financially viable,” she says.

“Because if they don’t carry on then it will seem like a token gesture and them getting on the bandwagon.”

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