The United Kingdom’s fashion industry is not cutting waste fast enough to hit its December 2020 target of a 3.5 percent reduction, the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) admitted Thursday.
According to a progress report from the WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP 2020) commitment, supply chain waste has dropped only by 1.4 percent against the 2012 baseline, WRAP admitted.
SCAP 2020 is a voluntary initiative by WRAP and the fashion sector to reduce carbon, water and waste across the life cycle of clothing.
Although more progress has been made on cutting water use and carbon emissions, the industry is set to miss its waste targets without urgent action.
As well as sluggish progress on supply chain waste, the amount of textile waste sent to landfill has dropped only by 4 percent since 2012, far short of the 15 percent target set under the SCAP. The data revealed waste in this category actually has increased since 2015, when it had dropped by 14 percent on 2012 levels.
WRAP cited population growth, rising consumption levels, lack of collection infrastructure and the length of time people kept clothes as reasons for the slow progress on waste.
U.K. consumers buy more clothes by volume than anywhere else in Europe. The rise of fast fashion means many items are only worn a handful of times before being discarded, often in landfill. Last year U.K .consumers sent 300,000 tonnes of textiles to be burned or dumped in landfill.
Peter Maddox, director of WRAP, admitted getting people to change their behavior around fashion is “challenging.” “The next few years will be an interesting time for the sector,” he said. “As well as the economic context and trends in fashion, we have EU exit and increased sector scrutiny that may all shape the future for U.K. fashion.”
In a bid to drive behavior change, WRAP is launching a consumer awareness campaign in the new year called #DonationGeneration, aimed at increasing the 620,000 tonnes of textiles collected for reuse and recycling in 2018. It is also researching and developing a new textiles voluntary agreement, to follow on from SCAP 2020.
Yet there is positive progress in some areas, WRAP insisted. Several retailer signatories to SCAP — which represents 48 percent of the U.K. clothing retail market by sales volume — have mapped their supply chains, so transparency is improving, the report found.
Meanwhile, progress on water and waste was more encouraging. The target to cut water use by 15 percent has been met ahead of 2020, with a decrease of more than 18 percent achieved. Cotton sourced from Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) suppliers had been a large contributor to the improvement, WRAP said.
Businesses signed up to SCAP have cut carbon by 13.4 percent, making WRAP confident that the goal of a 15 percent drop would be met. Emissions reductions have been achieved by changing the proportion of fibers used in clothing, and increasing use of sustainable forms of cotton, it said.
Earlier this year, the government rejected calls for a 1-pence levy on every piece of clothing sold, which could have raised $46 million for a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to improve textile collection and recycling services across the country. It said that textiles would be included in EPR schemes from 2025.