New measures from the UK Government to reduce waste from the fashion industry and hold manufacturers accountable for textile waste could see brands contribute to the costs of recycling.
The plan forms part of a new wide-ranging Waste Prevention Programme for England, which sets out how the government and industry can take action across seven key sectors – textiles, construction, furniture, electrical and electronics products, road vehicles, packaging, plastics and single-use items and food.
It includes steps to use resources more efficiently, design and manufacture products for optimum life and repair and reuse more items.
The fashion industry is estimated to account for around 4% of annual global carbon emissions, while the production of textiles leads to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to France, Germany and the UK.
An increasing amount of fabrics are bought and thrown away, with the purchase of clothing rising by almost 20% between 2012 and 2016 and around 921,000 tonnes of used textiles disposed of in household waste every year.
The government plans to consult stakeholders by the end of 2022 on options for textiles, such as an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, which would ensure the industry contributes to the costs of recycling, supporting by measures to encourage better design and labelling.
It believes such as scheme for the textiles industry could boost reuse, better collections and recycling, drive the use of sustainable fibres and support sustainable business models such as rental schemes.
The government aims to encourage ambitious industry action through a new voluntary agreement – Textiles 2030 – for the next 10 years, which will aim to reduce the environmental footprint of the textiles industry through science-based targets.
In addition, using powers sought in the Environment Bill will enable the government to set minimum standards for clothing on durability and recycled content and explore ways to improve labelling and consumer information of clothing.
The government also acknowledges progress made by the textiles industry, led by the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, a voluntary agreement co-ordinated by WRAP.
Signatories, which include major fashion retailers such as ASOS, M&S and Next, collectively reduced their water and carbon footprint per tonne of clothing by 19.5% and 15.9% respectively between 2012 and 2019.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “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 is consulting on the proposals set out in the Waste Prevention Programme for England until 10th June 2021.