War On Waste

British TV channel takes on fashion and sustainability

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By: Garry Knox

There has been a huge focus in the UK (and probably around the world) about how much food gets wasted by supermarkets and their customers.

A recent episode of a BBC UK programme called ‘War on Waste’ turned the attention to the fashion industry and the need for an industry that is more sustainable.

At one point in the programme, presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall stood upon a seven-tonne pile of clothing consisting of 10,000 separate garments in one of Britain’s largest shopping centres. He then revealed to surprised shoppers that it takes just 10 minutes for the country to throw away that amount of clothes.

“We’re binning more than £150m worth of clothes every year in the UK, and they end up being incinerated or buried in landfill,” Fearnley-Whittingstall said. Chucking away clothes at this current rate is clearly an environmental disaster.”

So who are the retailers doing their bit for the environment?

H&M has become one of the fashion industry’s leading lights on sustainability. In the past year alone, the Swedish retailer collected 7,684 tonnes of used materials through an in-store recycling scheme. They have developed a new recycled denim range, achieved a 29% increase in its use of organic cotton and launched a €1m funding scheme for clothes-recycling innovations.

A growing number of retailers – most recently Primark – have also collectively joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which requires firms to enter sustainability data into a series of online tools which then generate standardised performance scores and benchmarks.

But with the high street’s appetite for fast fashion still leaving around 85% of discarded clothing in landfill, Fearnley-Whittingstall concluded that the challenge remains to be overcome. Also, as with food waste, customer engagement and behavior change initiatives to encourage redistribution, will prove key.



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