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In the News

External costs of fast fashion

Graham Watson

30th November 2018

How can retailers sell T-shirts and dresses at rock bottom prices? Well, in the first place because they're made in bulk in places with exceptionally low wages - and similarly low H&S standards - and secondly because they are loss-leaders to get people into stores and onto websites.

In some instances, this might also be seen as predatory pricing, selling a good for less than its marginal cost, but I doubt whether banning this practice would do anything for worker welfare or the sustainability of the sector.

The UK House of Commons environmental audit committee is currently examining the environmental impact of clothes production. This BBC report covers some of their investigations.

The Economist has been in excellent form recently, with this another first-rate clip looking at the true cost of 'fast fashion', producing low cost, high volume clothes that are designed to be discarded.

This clip looks at the environmental implications of this: despite some recycling, in the UK more than 300,000 tons of clothes end up in landfill sites. It is the fastest growing category of waste in the country. However, the growth of the middle class across the globe means that this is a truly international problem.

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to Tutor2U, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

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