03/03/19 U.K. Lawmakers Could Tax New Clothes

British lawmakers are considering a radical new plan to encourage clothing recycling and reduce waste: a ‘fast fashion’ tax. 

A new report from the U.K. Parliament is urging a tax to fund a recycling program. 

The report presented by the U.K.’s parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee is recommending that Britain should charge producers a penny-per-garment fee to fund a £35 million ($45 million) per year national clothing recycling program.

Less than 1% of clothing in the U.K. is recycled today, according to the report, which also examined the wider impact of the fashion industry and so-called “fast fashion.”

 

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“A million tons of textiles a year are being thrown away and we need to bend the curve of consumption. We are urging consumers to buy less, to repair and reuse more before they recycle as well,” Mary Creagh, the chairwoman of the committee, told Sky News.

Only last year, environmental groups criticised Burberry for burning almost $40 million worth of unsold product to preserve the exclusivity of the luxury brand. Global clothing production and transport—not to mention the burning of garments—contribute about as much to carbon emissions as does the aviation industry, the BBC reports.

The parliamentary report also attacked labour standards in the fashion supply chain.

“We are also concerned about the use of child labour, prison labour, forced labour and bonded labour in factories and the garment supply chain,” lawmakers wrote.

 

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Image courtesy: Burberry criticised for incinerating unsold products | Burberry

Labour abuses occur not just among major producers of raw products, such as cotton farms in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but astonishingly in clothing factories in the U.K., where lawmakers write they have reports of underpaid and illegal workers.

In addition to the penny-per-garment fee and other suggested incentives to promote recycling, the report called for tightening supply chain transparency rules to make it easier for consumers to understand who made their clothing and under what conditions.

What’s more, the report also calls for a ban on incinerating and landfilling unsold stock. And about time, too!