EU should Charge Tax on Fast Fashion

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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 The development of globalisation has brought a new business concept called fast fashion to society. Fast fashion is “a business model that encourages new designs in stores every few weeks instead of every fashion season.” (Okonkwo, 2016, p. 229). The fast fashion industry originated in Europe, and its main features are that the price of clothes is low, the number of clothes is large, and the styles of clothes are various (Wilkinson, 2018). Brands such as Zara and H&M send young designers to attend major fashion week events every week and quickly simulate the fashion styles of the season.

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As a result, new clothes from conception to shelf, the entire production cycle can be compressed to a minimum of 2 weeks, which makes the two fashion seasons of fashion industry change into 52 fashion seasons a year (Wilkinson, 2018). The avant-garde design, rapid production speed, and extremely low prices have made fast fashion gradually become mainstream in the fashion industry, and it promoted the growth of the EU economy and the apparel industry (Drew, 2019). According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the number of the clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years (Reichart, 2019). However, the fast fashion industry should be slow down.

The EU should charge tax on fast fashion to address the textile pollution, textile waste, and child labour caused by the fast fashion industry, even though fast fashion can stimulate EU economic to growth. Charging taxes on fast fashion will be helpful to reduce environment pollution and textile waste. In 2014, The average rate of clothes purchased increased by 60% compared to 2000, but the consumer only kept clothes for a short time (Singh, 2017). The fashion industry has always been a major producer of environmental pollution and is now listed as the second largest polluting industry in the world (Lupica, 2017). Firstly, with the rapid development of the fashion industry, the demand for clothes has increased, and the demand for cotton has also increased. In order to increase the cotton production, industrialised pesticides and fertilisers massive used have caused serious pollution and salinization of the soil (UN environment, 2018). Secondly, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that fashion industries have 92 million tons of clothing waste landfilled in landfills every year (Dory, 2018). Of these, only 1% of clothing is recycled each year in the UK, and 300,000 tons of textiles are discarded annually in landfills (Retail Detail, 2019). Most of these garments are made from petroleum-based textiles, such as polyester, which take decades to degrade naturally. The micro-plastic fibres also enter freshwater and the ocean, threatening the survival of aquatic organisms. At the same time, the fashion industry is also the second largest water consumer, generating 20% of wastewater, while creating more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and shipping combined (UN environment, 2018).

For every kilogram of cotton produced, it takes up to 20,000 litres of water. Making a piece of clothing can use up to 8,000 kinds of chemicals, which causes massive waste and pollution (Reichart, 2019). Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the consumer’s desire to buy cheap fashion clothes by levying a fast fashion tax. Thereby reducing environmental pollution, clothing waste, and over-consumption caused by the fashion industry. Moreover, illegal child labour can be decreased by putting the tax on the fast fashion industry. Most clothing manufacturers are from countries with low wages or poor wages in Asia. According to ILO, approximately 260 million children worldwide are employed (Moulds, n.d).

Most child labourers work in the apparel industry, accelerating the production of textiles and apparel to meet the needs of consumers in Europe, the United States and other countries. According to the Organisation Stop Child Labour, the high demand for children who are willing to work at low wages and dangerous conditions are led by fast fashion (University of Bath, 2017). According to the Telegraph, the Brazilian authorities found in 2011 that Zara’s suppliers hired illegal migrant workers (Govan, 2011). They work 14 hours a day and receive only 20 to 200 euros per month. Even some 14-year-old underage girls work in the factory. In the Cambodian garment factory, he earned only $3 for 18 hours a day (Govan, 2011). Secondly, most of the garment manufacturing will use a lot of chemical raw materials and chemical substances. The first-line workers must be exposed to these chemicals, poisonous cotton, chemical dyes, etc., and the labour cancer rate is increasing in their area (Lupica, 2017). Even so, in order to live, the labourer must stay with this harsh working environment, and can only use his health to exchange for the meagre salary (Lupica, 2017).

Due to the severe compression of clothing costs by fast fashion brands, there is a high demand for illegal workers. EU raising the tax rate on fast fashion will help reduce child labour and enabling apparel brands to increase clothing costs and set the right clothing prices. The EU should levy a tax on fast fashion to support the sustainable development of the fashion industry, fair trade brands, and use this actions to improve the bottom of the hardest labour environment and salary levels in the fashion industry. In contrast, charging tax on fast fashion may slow down the market and economy growth, because when the prices of clothes go up, it will cause sales to go down. However, While the clothing market is expanding, the amount of garbage and pollution are also growing at the same time (Wilkinson, 2018). The mass production and waste of clothing have caused serious damage to the environment. In the fast fashion industry, the annual value of clothing discarded is more than $400 billion (Reichart, 2019). People have to spend more money to protect the environment and landfill clothing garbage. Because the fashion industry’s clothes are fashionable and cheap, consumers don’t care about the amount they buy. When these clothes are out of date, consumers will not feel wasted even if they discarded all these clothes (Dory, 2018).

The EU should promote the textile industry based on the principles of the circular economy by taxing fast fashion to reduce waste, prevent pollution, and minimize energy use. The short-term sales reduction is for better industries development in the future; after all, there is only one earth that we have to take care of it. In conclusion, charging tax on fast fashion will be more conducive to the development of the EU. First of all, First, taxing fast fashion will help reduce waste of resources while reducing the environmental pollution caused by discarded clothes. It is increasing the cost of clothing, reducing over-purchasing and excessive waste by consumers (Wilkinson, 2018). Secondly, the implementation of fast fashion taxes can help reduce child labour and slave labour.

In order to control costs and shorten the supply cycle, the international “fast fashion” brand are mostly distributed in less developed countries (O’Grady, 2019). It will lead to an increase in the demand for child labour and slave workers. Increasing the tax rate on fast fashion helps to control and reduce the use of child labour. Even though after the fast development of the fashions industry, the economy and clothes market grows dramatically. However, it was undeniable that environmental pollution caused by new fashions, waste of resources and the raging of child labour became more and more serious. Taxing the new fashion apparel industry will effectively control these adverse effects and creating a sustainable textile industry. For these reasons, the EU should charge tax on fast fashion.

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EU Should Charge Tax on Fast Fashion. (2021, Jun 17). Retrieved from