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Last Wednesday saw the launch of the European Clothing Action Plan, a new initiative to reduce textile waste across the European Union. Helmed by the United Kingdom’s Waste & Resources Action Programme, and funded through the EU to the tune of €3.6 million, the three-year venture will work with brands, retailers, manufacturers, recycling and reclamation groups, charities, and consumers to scale back the glut of clothing that inundates incinerators and landfills every year. “Finding more sustainable ways to work with textiles is an area set to deliver huge benefits—both economic and environmental,” Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, said in a statement. “To be leading on a project of this magnitude is something I am very excited about, and applying tried and tested approaches such as voluntary agreements and consumer campaigns across Europe, will really take our expertise to the next level.”
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Together with Made-By, a London- and Amsterdam-based not-for-profit that works to improve social and environmental conditions in the fashion industry; the Dutch Ministry’s Rijkswaterstaat department; the Danish Fashion Institute; and the London Waste and Recycling Board, WRAP says it plans to divert over 90,000 tons of clothing waste by March 2019.
Its plan is three-fold: to encourage the creation of longer-lived products based on “closed-loop” philosophies, to encourage consumers to be buy less while hanging on to their existing garments for longer, and to improve innovation in resource-efficient design and service models as a means to bolster business growth.
“Up to 80 percent of a garment’s environmental impact is decided in the design phase,” said Jonas Eder-Hansen, vice president and developmental director of the Danish Fashion Institute. “Only few designers and product developers realize their potential to create sustainable change through their decision.”
One 2013 study estimates that every year Europeans throw out 5.8 million tons of fabric waste, of which only a quarter is recycled.
“London’s participation in this project presents a hugely exciting opportunity for the capital to be recognized as a sustainable fashion hub with its thriving fashion industry, world-leading educational establishments for designers, stylists, fashion journalists and photographers, a huge uniformed workforce and some of the most switched-on consumers in Europe,” added Wayne Hubbard, CEO of LWARB. “LWARB is delighted to be involved to test and showcase what works, learn from others and then share our experience with other large European cities.”