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Government unveils proposals to support sustainable fashion

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

18 Mar 2021

The government has unveiled plans for a wide-ranging waste prevention programme to support sustainable fashion as it looks to “ramp up action” on fast fashion and hold manufacturers accountable for textile waste.

The measures are part of a new Waste Prevention Programme for England which sets out how the government and industry can take action across seven key sectors – construction, textiles, furniture, electrical and electronics products, road vehicles, packaging, plastics and single-use items, and food, to minimise waste and work towards a more resource-efficient economy.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said in a statement: “We are firmly committed to ending the ‘throwaway’ culture as we build back greener.

“Major retailers and fashion brands have made strides in reducing their environmental footprint but there is more we must do. That is why, through our world-leading Environment Bill and landmark reforms, we will take steps to tackle fast fashion by incentivising recycling and encouraging innovation in new design.”

The government added that the new proposals include steps to use resources more efficiently, design and manufacture products for optimum life and repair and reuse more items.

Directed at the fashion and textile industry, the government proposes the launch of a voluntary agreement, Textiles 2030, which will build on the learning and success of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan coordinated by Wrap with signatories including Marks and Spencer, Asos and Next.

Government proposes new voluntary agreement for the fashion industry to reduce its environmental footprint

The new voluntary agreement officially launches in April 2021 and will ask signatories to commit to a reduction in their environmental footprints to meet set “science-based” targets on carbon, water and circular textile by 2030.

Key targets will be reducing greenhouse gas footprint to align with limiting global warming to 1.5°C and a 30 percent reduction in water footprint. In addition, each signatory business will also need to commit to a collaborative approach to create and deliver a UK-wide Roadmap for Circular Textiles to help reduce waste by designing products to be circular and by using more circular raw materials.

Marcus Gover, chief executive of Wrap, added: “Wrap welcomes the focus this consultation brings on the need to create a more circular economy. We will not achieve net-zero without taking action on the way we produce, use and dispose of the products we rely on to live our lives.

“When we throw things away, we waste all the carbon, water, materials and labour that have gone into making them. Our new Textiles 2030 business collaboration commitment exemplifies the ambition of COP26 and will halve the impact of textiles sold in the UK by 2030.”

Government publishes plans for wide-ranging Waste Prevention Programme

The measures aim to address the fact that the fashion industry is estimated to account for 4 percent of annual global carbon emissions, while textiles production leads to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions of France, Germany and the UK.

The government adds that British consumers buy and throw away increasing amounts of fabrics, with the purchase of clothing rising by almost 20 percent between 2012 and 2016, and around 921,000 tonnes of used textiles disposed of in household waste each year.

It states that a producer responsibility scheme for the textiles industry could “boost reuse, better collections and recycling, drive the use of sustainable fibres, and support sustainable businesses models such as rental schemes”.

These measures are proposed alongside the Environment Bill, which will give the government powers to set minimum standards for clothing on durability and recycled content, and explore ways to improve labelling and consumer information of clothing.

In addition, under the new plans, the government also announced that 30 million pounds has been allocated by UK Research and Innovation to establish five new research centres that will develop UK-based circular supply chains, one of which will focus on circular textiles technology.

Pete Belk, circular economy campaign director at Business in the Community, said: “We are excited to see Defra’s draft Waste Prevention Programme published today. Business in the Community members are increasingly looking for opportunities over and above recycling to reduce their resource use.

“We welcome the government’s focus on reuse, repair and remanufacturing in key sectors like textiles, construction and food. We want business to embrace the opportunities to avoid carbon, reduce material use and create green jobs by embracing the opportunities set out in the Waste Prevention Programme.”

Image: Pexels by Artem Beliaikin