How many of us have been tempted in the last few months to buy cheaper clothing that may not be built to last? Certain items such as school uniforms and some other children’s clothes can be picked up at surprisingly low prices right now from certain stores. These low-cost items are often considered disposable fashions by the buyer – they are cheap, they get a lot of wear and tear and children grow out of them quickly. Before you know it, they are in the bin.
Then there are the adult and child fashion items from outlets like Primark. Shoppers know that some of these items may not last, but they are low cost, often quite up to date in terms of fashion, and, as they will probably go out of fashion altogether within a season or two, why not treat them as ‘throwaway fashions’?
Is this acceptable? Or do we need to think more about the implications of this type of purchase?
Mike Webster, a representative of the charity Waste Watch, believes we should consider the real cost of ‘affordable fashion’. “If manufacturers and retailers had to bear the environmental cost of producing such cheap clothes, they might think again about their prices and quality,” he says. “Every time a £2 T-shirt gets thrown into the bin, it ends up costing the taxpayer in the expense of taking it to the landfill, and it taking up space in the landfill.”
According to a committee of MPs, council tips have seen the proportion of textile waste rise from 7% to 30% in the last five years.
Asda, Tesco and Primark’s clothing sales all performed well last year, and with all three offering ultra cheap clothing it is good to hear that Asda for one is addressing this issue. They have stated that their clothing is not intended to be ‘disposable’ and that any parent can return the George school uniform range for up to 100 days rather than the usual 28 days if they are unhappy with the quality. If the scheme is a success they may go on to review their entire refund policy to cover adult clothing in this way.
Tesco said it would consider looking at its return policy, but for now insists that their school uniform offers (which can buy you –two pairs of trousers, three shirts and a sweat top for less than £11) are simply “good quality at good prices”.