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Focus on Sustainability: France plans to ban discarding unsold clothing

"As per the European Clothing Action Plan, Europeans consumed over 6.4 million ton of clothing in 2017. France alone discards 600,000 ton of clothing and accessories per year, reveals a case study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, of which only a quarter is collected in recycling bins or charity shops. Under the country’s circular economy roadmap, lawmakers are planning to impose a ban on unsold clothing just the same way it passed a law preventing supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food two years back. With the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe at the helm, by 2019 new regulations or incentives would prohibit brands from discarding unsold clothing into landfills or through incineration, instead requiring sustainable measures like recycling or donating to charity shops."

 

Focus on Sustainability France plans to ban discarding unsold clothing 002France has been leading the eco-friendly countries’ race globally. From a solar-powered road to up cycled installations, the country has continuously found creative ways to make environmentalism its mission. Following in the footsteps of a 2015 food waste law, the French government has turned its attention to textiles, making it illegal for retailers to throw away unsold clothing.

As per the European Clothing Action Plan, Europeans consumed over 6.4 million ton of clothing in 2017. France alone discards 600,000 ton of clothing and accessories per year, reveals a case study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, of which only a quarter is collected in recycling bins or charity shops. Under the country’s circular economy roadmap, lawmakers are planning to impose a ban on unsold clothing just the same way it passed a law preventing supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food two years back. With the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe at the helm, by 2019 new regulations or incentives would prohibit brands from discarding unsold clothing into landfills or through incineration, instead requiring sustainable measures like recycling or donating to charity shops.

The initiative is a part of the proposed Circular Economy Roadmap, which outlines 50 measures for France to become a circular, sustainable economy —Focus on Sustainability France plans to ban discarding unsold clothing 001 one that moves away from a linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model towards a model of restoration and regeneration. The details of the entire move are yet to be outlined, according to legislators, it may include potential tax breaks for companies that re-use or recycle clothing, rather than dump them in a landfill, thereby linking sustainable practices with profit. Regardless, it is not likely to be a fully-fledged law, but rather an incentivised proposal. Moreover, it would also include potential tax breaks for companies that re-use or recycle clothing. Francois Souchet, lead of the Circular Fibres Initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, stated now is the time for the fashion industry to ensure their products are used more. Whether it’s through pressure from legislators or consumers, a lot of signals say the time is right for the industry to rethink their business model.

Ways to achieve sustainability

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which worked with the French government on the scheme, outlines three areas of action that brands can take. First, set up new business models that move away from a classic retail model. Second, innovate and use recyclable materials. Third, make clothes to be made again by incorporating recycling into the design process. On this move, French luxury house Chanel has stated it avoids (the practice of disposing off unsold clothing) and does everything possible to eradicate it. Chanel’s strategy of producing collections only when it receives orders from buyers’ cuts down considerably on unsold stock. It is also planning to recycle unsold items.

Most companies have a tough task in managing their sustainability goals, for instance, last year, H&M was accused of burning 12 ton of new, unsold clothing per year (although the fast fashion chain denied the claims). Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton has long been rumoured to burn all unsold bags to avoid lowering brand cachet by selling discounted items in stores. On changing paradigms, Souchet asserted the opportunity is to disconnect revenues from resource consumption and satisfy changing customer needs. Brands need to align the design and business model.

 
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