The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called on the Government to make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create. A one penny producer responsibility charge on each item of clothing could pay for better clothing collection and recycling, it maintains. It also suggests that taxation should also be reformed to reward companies that offer clothing repairs and reduce the environmental footprint of their products.
EAC chair Mary Creagh MP said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. Our insatiable appetite for clothes comes with a huge social and environmental price tag: carbon emissions, water use, chemical and plastic pollution are all destroying our environment.
“In the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. ‘Fast fashion’ means we over-consume and under use clothes. As a result, we get rid of over a million tonnes of clothes, with £140m worth going to landfill, every year.
“Fashion retailers must take responsibility for the clothes they produce. That means asking producers to consider and pay for the end of life process for their products through a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme. The Government must act to end the era of throwaway fashion by incentivising companies that offer sustainable designs and repair services. Children should be taught the joy of making and mending clothes in school as an antidote to anxiety and the mental health crisis in teenagers. Consumers must play their part by buying less, mending, renting and sharing more.”
The report warns that although some parts of the fashion industry are making progress in reducing their carbon and water consumption, these improvements have been outweighed by the increased volumes of clothing being sold. It concludes that a voluntary approach to improving the sustainability of the fashion industry is failing with just 10 fashion retailers signed up to reduce their water, waste and carbon footprints.
It recommends that compliance with WRAP’s Sustainability Clothing Action Plan targets should be made mandatory for all retailers with a turnover of more than £36 million as a ‘licence to practice’.
The report calls for changes to the Modern Slavery Act and Companies Act to increase transparency and require large fashion brands and retailers to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains to ensure their products are produced without forced or child labour.
You can read the EAC’s report in full here.
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