MPs have summoned bosses at 10 leading UK clothing retailers to come clean about their environmental record as part of an investigation of "fast fashion".

The inquiry into sustainability by the Westminster Environmental Audit Committee was prompted by concerns at the role the industry plays in the leaching of synthetic fibres and microplastics into oceans and waterways.

However members of the committee are also concerned at the flood of cheap clothing into the UK, often from sources with low pay and poor working conditions, and a throwaway culture which sees high-street versions of catwalk couture designed to last for only a few months. MPs are concerned that increased clothing sales have seen an equivalent rise in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothing dumped every year.

Senior figures at firms including Marks & Spencer, Primark, Next, Tesco, Asda and Sports Direct are among those being asked to explain what they are doing to cut waste. Environmental Audit committee chairwoman Mary Creagh has written to bosses at the firms inviting them to appear before MPs.

She said: "The way we design, produce and discard our clothes has a huge impact on our planet.

"Fashion and footwear retailers have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage. We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable."

The responses will contribute to an eventual report on how the UK's fashion industry – worth £28 billion a year to the UK economy – can reduce its environmental footprint. An earlier inquiry by the same committee led to the Government passing a ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetics, which is regarded as one of the toughest in the world.

Expert evidence published by the committee shows people in the UK buy more new clothes than any other European country – almost double that of consumers in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands – and purchase twice as much clothing as they did 10 years ago.

The committee's latest report also raises concerns about ocean pollution from synthetic fibres from clothing. Research from the University of Plymouth has shown a single washing machine load can release 700,000 fibres to wastewater.

Up to 90% of garment workers are paid below the National Minimum Wage, do not have employment contracts, and are subject to intense and arbitrary work practices, the committee was told by the British Retail Consortium. Meanwhile the global fashion industry produced more CO2 emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined in 2015, according to a submission from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

The committee expects to invite some of the biggest retailers into Parliament for further questioning from November.

John McNally, SNP MP for Falkirk, is a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. He said: "You probably wouldn't consider that so many microplastics would be in the clothes you buy. But we need to find out more about the fashion industry and its sustainability. There is a lot of waste as well as a lot of water and chemicals being used in the industry.

"But even calling these companies to appear before MPs could have an impact. Sometimes it only takes one manufacturer or designer to take a lead," he said.

MPs request for companies to look more closely at the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell was welcomed by Friends of the Earth.

The charity said its own research had shown clothes washing in the UK generates around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year – of which 1,600 tonnes could be ending up in our rivers and estuaries.

Public concern about the issue of plastic pollution has been high since the recent BBC series Blue Planet II aired. But a spokeswoman said only 45 per cent of the public know that new clothing can often be made from, or contain, plastic.

Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Emma Priestland said: “Clothing firms must come clean about their impact on the environment.

“Clothes washing generates thousands of tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year – much of which ends up in our rivers and estuaries, where it can enter the food chain.

“The fashion industry must do far more to reduce the significant damage it does to our planet. And if it doesn’t, the government must make them.”

Friends of the Earth is urging retailers to find out which are the most polluting fabrics - and find solutions to stop them shedding microplastic pollution.

The environmental campaign group is also calling on the public to embrace ‘slow fashion’ rather than fast fashion; and buy fewer, better quality items made with sustainable material