Tuesday 15 November 2016

A Europe-Wide Plan For Sustainable Change

We need to get a handle on waste and sustainability in the fashion industry. Recent figures show that we throw away the equivalent of seven tonnes of unwanted clothing in the UK every ten minutes. The sector takes up five per cent of our carbon and water footprints, and is a massive hog on resources. We need a plan.

The thing is, we may just have one. The Waste And Resources Action Plan, better known to us as WRAP, have just signed five major clothing manufacturers to ECAP (European Clothing Action Plan), a Europe-wide initiative to reduce waste and work towards a more sustainable future. One name in particular stands out in the list of participants: Primark.

There are four main points to ECAP: designing and specifying products for longer life and closed-loop production; ensuring that less clothing goes to incineration and landfill; encouraging customers to buy less clothing and use it for longer; and improving innovation in resource-efficient design and service models to encourage business growth in the sector. All of these are fairly basic tenets in sustainable fashion. How long have we been talking about Buy Less, Choose Wisely?

The plan is for ECAP participants to divert 90,000 tonnes of clothing waste from landfill and incineration, save 1.6 million tons of CO2e, and make 588 million cubic metres of water savings. Help will come in the form of education into the current impact of their business models, and aid in development of new products using more sustainable resources.

Sarah Clayton of WRAP says:

“As the first participants of ECAP, these organisations are championing sustainable clothing across Europe. The wheels are in motion, but more can be done – we are looking to welcome and involve more brands, retailers, manufacturers, reuse and recycling organisations, charities and consumers in the plan to drive greater sustainability of clothing across Europe.”

ECAP aims to build on the success of WRAP's UK-based Sustainable Action Clothing Plan (SCAP2020), which has 82 signatories all working to reduce the environmental impact of the clothing industry. That plan has already had some astonishing successes–in the first year of operation, there was a 12.5% reduction in water impacts, and a 3% drop in carbon emissions.

Involving big names in an ambitious plan is great news, of course, but it remains to be seen how much of a success ECAP will be. But the will and enthusiasm to change from both business and government does seem to be in place. And that can only be a good thing.

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