The clothing industry is major contributor to waste and carbon use, MPs were told by recycling charity Textile Reuse & International Development (Traid).
In evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) hearing on the sustainability of the fashion industry, Traid said the trend towards disposable ‘fast’ fashion meant the amount of discarded material had increased sharply in recent years.
Traid said some 650,000 tonnes of clothing were collected for reuse and recycling in 2014, and a survey two years later by the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan found 39% was donated to charity shops.
Eighteen per cent was given through charity bag household collections, 13% brought to textile banks, 7% was sold and 6% of disposed of in general waste collections.
The charity called for greater public education on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and on ways in which clothes could be repaired, reused or donated.
It said that if the fashion industry continued to operate under its current model then, by 2050, it could use more than 26% of the carbon budget allocated for keeping within reach of the 2°C average global warming limit.
Fast-changing trends and low prices has caused a significant increase in clothing purchases and so the rate of discarding, with 1.13 million tonnes of clothing purchased in the UK in 2016, a 200,000 increase in four years.
The committee last week called on retailers Amazon, ASOS, Pretty Little Thing and Missguided to give evidence to the inquiry.
EAC chair, Labour’s Mary Creagh, said: “Our recent evidence hearing raised alarm bells about the fast-growing online-only retail sector.
“Low-quality £5 dresses aimed at young people are said to be made by workers on illegally low wages and are discarded almost instantly, causing mountains of non-recycled waste to pile up.
“We will be calling some of these online retailers in front of the committee to answer questions but, in the meantime, my letters encourage them to face up to the social and environmental consequences of their business models.”