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Textile recyclers back new UK sustainability drive

UK recyclers are supporting a new national voluntary agreement for a more sustainable textile sector – and have called on the government to speed consideration of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme.

Textiles 2030 has been unveiled by the sustainability charity WRAP, building on its previous Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP 2020) scheme which is coming to an end. The aim is to harness the knowledge and expertise of leaders in sustainability to accelerate the UK fashion and textiles industry’s move towards a more circular economy.

The UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA) is a founding supporter of Textiles 2030 and says SCAP 2020 has made the UK ‘a global beacon’ for ideas, innovation and action towards the sustainability of the clothing supply chain.

WRAP marked the announcement of the new scheme by publishing research showing more than half of British people view the environmental impact of clothing as ‘severe’, with two in three (63%) saying clothes made to both look good and last longer are now factors in the brands and clothing they choose.

The findings build on its research from the summer indicating the public wants inventive new retail options that prolong the life of clothes, including voucher schemes for clothing exchanges (46%), and pre-loved clothes (41%). It says personal habits changed during lockdown, with one in four (23%) now repairing clothes, and one in five (19%) keeping items for longer.

TRA says that reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with global targets is not an option and the textiles sector has ‘a very significant contribution to make towards achieving this’. ‘We need to develop new markets for reuse and recycling grades,’ it says in a statement. ‘This will involve investing in new collection and processing infrastructure and technologies as well as delivering a better regulatory environment in which to operate. Product standards will have a key role to play.’

The TRA adds that the voluntary elements of the new agreement could be underpinned by a regulatory scheme for clothing and textiles and it urges the Government to bring forward to 2022 a planned review of EPR.

‘If it is delayed until 2025 this will be a lost opportunity and with a number of other countries now making strides to introduce their own producer responsibility schemes, we would be playing catch up and will be in a weaker position to influence important collective international decisions about the direction the fashion and textiles sector should take,’ it adds.

Textiles 2030 is due to have an official launch next April. Leading businesses across clothing retail, supply, reuse and recycling, including SCAP 2020 signatories, will collaborate as ‘partners’. Other fashion and textiles Brands and Retailers can sign up as ‘members’ and benefit from WRAP’s support in achieving a science-based, robust climate strategy and measuring their GHG emissions. Innovators, researchers, academics and industry membership groups can join as affiliates.

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