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Sustainable Clothing Action Plan: Progress made but key concerns remain

By Huw Hughes

19 Dec 2019

Fashion |UPDATE

The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP), a scheme aimed at reducing the fashion industry’s carbon, water and waste footprint, has revealed in its latest data for 2018 that while progress is being made in certain areas, the increasing amount of clothing ending up in landfill or incineration is still a cause for concern.

The initiative, managed by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), revealed that the plan’s signatories have already met its 2020 water target, managing to reduce their water usage by more than 18 percent (per tonne of clothing) compared to 2012 and against a 15 percent target. SCAP said that sourcing from Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) suppliers was a large contributor to this.

Additionally, SCAP said it is “confident” that its target of a 15 percent reduction in carbon will also be met by 2020, considering the number is already at 13.4 percent. This improvement is reportedly due to several factors, such as changes in the proportions of different fibres used and increased use of sustainable cotton.

There are currently 88 organisations signed up to the SCAP 2020 Commitment, with signatories representing 65 percent of clothes sold in the UK by volume and 54 percent by sales value.

Clothing waste still a major concern

But it’s not all good news. The latest report also revealed that excessive clothing waste in the fashion industry is still a cause for concern. In fact, the amount of clothing ending up in landfill or incineration has increased by a worrying 10 percent since 2014/15.

SCAP highlighted that this is a particularly difficult issue for signatories to tackle, as consumers in the UK are buying more clothing than ever. Looking forward, SCAP said that encouraging consumers to re-use and recycle fashion garments will be key to making progress.

Similarly, while signatories have reduced whole supply chain waste by 1.4 percent, that’s against a target of 3.5 percent, which SCAP said is now unlikely to be met by December 2020. “Supply chain transparency is improving, but more work is needed to tackle supply chain waste,” the report said.

In January, MPs criticised UK fast-fashion businesses after a report by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) found that many were “failing to commit to reduce environmental impact” within the industry.

The report, which was part of a wider investigation by the EAC into sustainability in the fashion industry, found that the UK buys more clothes per person than any other European country, with the average consumer buying 26.7kg of fashion items per year, compared with 16.7kg in Germany, 14.5kg in Italy and 12.6kg in Sweden.

It also set out recommendations covering environmental and labour market practices to help clean up the industry. That included a proposed 1p charge per item of clothing in the UK to help fund better waste collection and recycling systems. The EAC estimated that the new Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) levy would raise 35 million pounds per year.

In June, the government rejected all of the recommendations in the ‘Fixing Fashion Report: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability’. The government said in a statement: “We recognise how crucial it is for the environmental and social impacts to be well managed, particularly in this era of fast fashion...In our response, we explain the action already being taken in respect of clothing and outline our [existing] plans for the future.”

Photo credit: Rawpixel.com, Pexels

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