It’s time for a fashion revolution to tackle plastic pollution

The University of Portsmouth is joining a global fashion revolution to help improve both the environmental and human costs that go into making the clothes we wear.

Fashion Revolution Week (19-25 April) is an annual event, now in its eighth year, that commemorates the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, which killed 1,134 people in Dhaka District, Bangladesh.

For this year’s event, the University will host a series of events that look at the impact of the fashion industry supply chain in relation to COVID-19, plastics, textile waste and human rights.

Plastic is a big problem for the fashion industry. Global consumption of clothing and footwear is expected to increase by 63 per cent by 2030, from 62 million tonnes today to 102 million in 2030*. Well over half of used European textiles still end up in mixed household waste destined for landfill or incineration: this challenge is even greater globally.

Synthetic fibres, such as polyester, nylon, elastane and acrylic, are made using fossil fuels, and the use of these fibres in fashion has dramatically increased in recent years, doubling between 2000 and 2020. These cheap fabrics have fuelled the explosion of fast, throwaway fashion. (RSA)

The University is leading its own revolution – on plastic pollution, which is a major issue for the global fashion industry.

Steve Fletcher, Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy and Director of the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative, said: “The University is leading its own revolution – on plastic pollution, which is a major issue for the global fashion industry. We’re assembling teams of scientists, business-leaders, campaigners and citizens who share our ambition to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastics.

“Our events for Fashion Revolution week will focus on the role the clothing industry has in the world’s plastic problem, how COVID 19 has affected it and what can be done to make a change.”

Dr Elaine Igoe, Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Performance and coordinator of the University’s Fashion Revolution activities, said: “Our events highlight the fact that clothing is important to all our lives; its role in economies and ecologies is of global importance. Staff and students across many subject areas at the University of Portsmouth recognise this and are working to help realise the aims that Fashion Revolution campaigns for.”

Clothing is important to all our lives; its role in economies and ecologies is of global importance.

During the week, a series of free online events will bring together experts from around the world to discuss:

Charity Shopping: Second Hand Citizens

The COVID19 pandemic has undoubtedly heavily impacted the UK charity shop sector. While would-be donations pile up in houses, our dependency on the availability and capacity of the charity shop sector to deal with clothing waste has become more apparent. Without being able to ‘offload’ our unwanted clothing, what are the consequences on the fashion and textiles value chain?

Fashion workers around the world: From Resilience to Resistance

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated global and national inequalities, leaving many vulnerable communities and workers around the world more susceptible to exploitation and violation of their rights. With its necessary and imposed processes of social isolation, the Covid-19 also has made it extremely challenging for workers to organise themselves using traditional methods of fight against oppression. What techniques and processes have individuals and collective organisations used during the pandemic. Have workers groups and communities translated resilience into resistance and what effect will this have on throwaway fashion.

*Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, Boston Consulting group.

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