Could Fast Fashion Tax be a future solution to the industry’s waste problems?

With a holistic by-nature approach at its core, I sat down with Kuben Edwards to talk about fashion's waste and why it is essential to change how the industry deals with the problem.

Kuben Edwards is a South African-born entrepreneur who resides in Shoreditch, London. She is the CEO and founder of onezero8, a company that provides circular solutions for fashion waste. 

The female-led company is dedicated to solving the global challenges of sustainable fashion production. “We are in the business of helping companies to implement more effective recycling and waste-minimising processes,” explained Edwards.

With a holistic by-nature approach at its core, I sat down with Edwards to talk about fashion’s waste and why it is essential to change the industry’s approach to the problem.

Ok, lets dive straight in. How can the fashion industry change what it offers?

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes ‘change’ when it comes to what the fashion industry needs to do. I like to keep things simple. So how about we start with making it a must that fashion companies use not only better-quality fabric but also understand the processes of producing that material. Yes, this could make the product more expensive, but if we pay more, maybe we would be encouraged to treat our clothes better and wear them longer.

Many are of the opinion that the big companies are to blame for the majority of the industry’s problem, what do you think?

The big companies that control the fashion industry need to be held accountable because they are the same people running both fast fashion brands alongside their sustainable collections. 

Pressured to present a greener image, most fast fashion brands have a side gig, that paints a picture of change even though they are still producing fast fashion products. I think this is because some of them see this type of ‘change’ as an opportunity to clean up their image and also make some money.

This is why prominent companies are blamed, because they are expected to set the tone. The truth of the matter is that change needs to come from the top. If they lead by example, their efforts could have a domino effect that trickles down to the more smaller fashion companies who do not have the same clout to make the big changes. 

Landfills are a big problem that no one seems to have a concrete solution to. What are your thoughts? 

Landfills in some countries are like walking down a high street of waste. You will see labels like H&M, Marks & Spencer, GAP etc piled on top of each other. So here is a solution; let’s make sending our textile waste abroad illegal. Lets not make our waste be someone else’s problem.  

This move could force companies to invest in finding solutions for clothing waste, because if its on our doorstep, then pressure to act faster will increase, pushing the problem to the top of everyone’s political agenda.

Is giving textile waste a second life a long-term solution?

What is tragic is that we can utilise waste. Clothing waste is money that we readily throw away. I do not understand why we cannot see its value and change how we treat our clothes. It seems so obvious, yet nothing is being done that effectively confronts the problem head on.

So let’s think bigger. Up-cycled clothing waste should not only be for clothes but also for lifestyle items. Let’s use it to create better living situations, i.e. working alongside social housing projects in the UK.

What would you do if you could click your fingers and enforce something that would bring about immediate change?

In the UK, sugar tax, alcohol tax and cigarette tax have become the norm. They are taxed because the products negatively affect one’s health and quality of life. Therefore there should be a fast fashion tax because clothing waste impacts both our health and environment.

The lesson here should be; if the way of doing business badly affects planet and people, it should be taxed, heavily. The money made from the tax should then be used to finance long term solutions that have the potential to fix the problems.

Any last words?

We need good legislation for fast fashion to do better. First, we must start from the root of the problem and stay away from the cheap and fast mentality.

I like the idea of creating more garment sorting solutions in the UK that could help us deal with our clothing waste.

Lastly, why are human rights still an issue in 2023? We need to have a standard global legislation that creates a new mindset that helps companies first take accountability and secondly have the tools to act and ensure that the way they do business is fair to people, planet and of course their profit. Simply put, if accountability is Robin, legislation needs to be Batman. 

Kuben Edward’s next stop will be Munich Fabric Start, where she will be partaking in a panel called: FUTURE MATERIALS: THE RACE FOR NEW TEXTILES, alongside Kirsi Terho (Infinited Fiber), Marianne Uddman (Trustrace) and Simon Angel (MUNICH FABRIC START).

The conversation will explore how textiles are getting a sustainability makeover thanks to recycled textiles, regeneratively farmed cotton and mushroom-based leather, while asking the question: are these materials worth the investment and the long-term commitments required to scale?

Wednesday 25th January 2023, Munich Fabric Start, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM; TRENDSEMINARS | Keyhouse – Hall 5

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