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MPs call for new tax to end throwaway fashion

MPs are calling on government to introduce a ‘producer responsibility tax’ on clothing manufacturers after finding that a voluntary approach to tackling throwaway fashion has failed.

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 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 sustainability targets should be made mandatory for all clothing producers 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.

The government is in the midst of reforming the existing EPR scheme for packaging waste as part of its Resources and Waste Strategy, and is considering extending it to textiles from 2025. However, the committee says government must act sooner.

Introducing a tax on synthetic textile products, similar to the government’s proposal to tax plastic packaging with less than 30 per cent recycled content, could also stimulate the market for recycled fibres in the UK, MPs said.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which has produced its own report, Engineering Out Fashion Waste, commented:

“We welcome this new report from the Environmental Audit Committee that draws attention to the responsibility of garment manufacturers in reducing waste and emissions from their industry.

“One important aspect not discussed in detail is in the reduction of waste produced, this would mean manufacturing and selling fewer goods, a challenge to any industry in today’s economy.

“If industry paid a penny on every garment sold, this could be invested in initiatives which provide incentives for the development of more environmentally fibres which reduce shedding and fibre recycling technologies, particularly those which are able to separate blended fibres.”

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