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Government called on to tackle clothing waste

A British university academic has called on the government to support retailers’ schemes used to tackle clothing waste.

Researchers from the University of Leeds said there is a growing alarm” surrounding what it believes to be environmentally unsustainable clothing consumption.

Elizabeth Morgan from the institution’s School of Earth and Environment highlighted a Mintel report that said in the UK £41bn was spent on clothing in 2011, as well as figures produced by the Waste and Resources Action Programme that show almost a third of shopper’s clothing has not been worn for at least a year.

Morgan pointed to Marks & Spencer’s Plan A initiative, which launched in 2007 with the aim of increasing the environmentally sustainable behaviour of its customers, as a positive example. However, she said the success is unlikely to be replicated on a larger scale without government help.

“The clothing sector has been identified as having huge environmental impacts, but the big players are under-explored in terms of innovation for sustainability,” she said.

“Perhaps the role of government is to recognise when businesses have created a new business model for more sustainable consumption and to support continuing development for such innovation by finding ways to make it attractive for other businesses to adopt,” she added.

“There is only so much that even the biggest clothes retailers can do on their own.”

In 2012 Wrap invited retailers in the clothing sector to pledge to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints by 15% by 2020. To date New Look, Next, and Whistles have all agreed.


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