Ministers ‘reject fast fashion impact advice’

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A catalogue of proposals to force the fashion industry to clean up its act has been rejected by the UK government.

MPs want ministers to end the era of throwaway clothes and poor working conditions.

They made 18 recommendations covering environmental and labour market practices but none were accepted.

Not only is the fashion industry a source of emissions, but old clothes pile up in landfill and fibres flow into the sea when clothes are washed.

A government spokesperson said it was dealing with the impacts of fast fashion – and many measures were already in place.

Among the proposals from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) were:

  • A 1p charge per garment on producers to fund better recycling of clothes;
  • Ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled instead;
  • Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million;
  • Tax changes to reward reuse, repair and recycling – to support responsible fashion companies.

The EAC’s chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh, said: “Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create.

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“The government is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets.

“It is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill.”

Many of the ministers’ objections stem from a preference for voluntary schemes rather than taxes and bans.

They cite the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), co-ordinated by the waste watchdog WRAP.

This sets targets for the industry to reduce carbon emissions, water and waste.

The government also maintains it’s better to find outlets for waste textiles rather than simply imposing a landfill ban.

But a government spokesperson said: “It simply isn’t true to say we are not accepting the committee’s recommendations.

“In our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy we will take forward measures including developing proposals and consulting on extended producer responsibility (EPR) and higher product standards for textiles.

“This would make producers responsible for the full cost of managing and disposing of their products after they’re no longer useful.”

Ministers say they’re focusing on a tax on single-use plastic in packaging, rather than a tax on cheap fashion items.

They point to Sweden’s VAT reduction for repair services, which they say has made little impact.

They say they will consider a levy on clothes alongside their plans for making firms in different sectors more responsible for their waste – but no decisions will be made on this until 2025.

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