France May Ban Clothing Stores From Tossing Out Unsold Clothing

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By Amanda Froelich,

“Fast fashion” — what is it, and how do we prevent it? Simply put, fast fashion is the trend of discarding or rejecting articles of clothing, either because they contain small rips or stains or because they are no longer in season. As a result, retailers, thrift stores, and consumers toss the clothing into the trash. Doing this is not only incredibly wasteful, it is creating an environmental crisis.


In the 2012, 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States either went into a landfill or an incinerator, reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In landfills, clothing produces the potent greenhouse gas methane as it slowly degrades. Furthermore, the inks, dyes, and bleach that went into the clothing leach into the environment, releasing toxins into the air and waterways. This is a conundrum, one France wants to solve — at least in its own country. To accomplish this, the European country has proposed banning clothing stores from tossing out or destroying unsold clothes.


According to Fashion Network, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, has unveiled a road map for the development of the country’s economy. One of the many proposals is to prohibit the throwing away of unsold textiles and apparels. The document says the government wants to “apply to the textile industry, by 2019, the main principles adopted in the fight against food waste, to ensure that unsold textile stocks are neither discarded nor eliminated.”


As Valérie Fayard, Deputy General Manager of international solidarity movement Emmaus, explained, there is no specific timeline. Rather, the document is a “preliminary roadmap.” However, because the PM has been calling for the action for several months, a ban is likely to be implemented within the next few years. Said Fayard: “The 2019 deadline allows the government to appraise the situation, calculate the amount of discarded [textiles], review the procedures put in place by companies and the problems involved.”


The issue of textile waste came to the forefront of attention earlier this year when a citizen of Rouen, France, filmed the destruction and discarding of clothes by the French fashion retailer Celio. The company later stated that the products in question were tossed because they were “unwearable and irretrievably damaged.” Public outcry did not cease, however, as weeks later, a Danish current affairs programme reported that H&M has burned approximately twelve tons of clothing every year since 2013.


Citizens hold blame, as well. Every year, consumers in Europe throw away four million tons of clothing. At the same time, five million tons of clothing is put on the market. France presently has one of Europe’s largest apparel markets. Of the 700,000 tons of clothing that is thrown away each year, only 160,000 tons are recycled.


To put an end to clothing waste, the French PM intends to translate the “road map” into legislation by 2019. Shortly after, the ban (which may affect  the furniture, textiles, hotels, electronics and food products sectors) will be put into effect. Meanwhile a series of regulations and initiatives will be deployed by the government with the hope of pushing companies to “engage voluntarily” in the matter.
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