A parliamentary committee is calling on the government to introduce a 1p ‘producer responsibility charge’ on every garment to make the fashion sector take responsibility for the waste it creates.
According to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report, Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability, around 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household bins every year in the UK, with around 80 per cent incinerated and 20 per cent sent to landfill.
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.
Call for regulation
It concludes that a voluntary approach to improving the sustainability of the fashion industry is failing, with just ten fashion retailers signed up to reduce their water, waste and carbon footprints.
Instead, MPs recommend 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’.
In addition, a charge of one penny per garment on producers as part of a new extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme could raise £35 million to reward sustainable companies and invest in better clothing collection and recycling schemes. Extending the government’s proposed tax on virgin plastics to synthetic textile products could also stimulate the market for recycled fibres in the UK.
The government is in the midst of reforming the existing EPR scheme for packaging waste and is considering extending it to textiles from 2025. However, the committee says government must act sooner.
‘Time to take responsibility’
Environmental Audit Committee chair, Mary Creagh, 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 £140 million worth going to landfill, every year. Fashion retailers must take responsibility for the clothes they produce.”