Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by C. Spahrbier

Initiative launches to fight Clothing Waste around Europe

A new initiative to tackle the growing clothing and textiles waste issue across Europe has been launched by UK-based organisation WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). The European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) was begun with the aim of diverting over 90,000 tonnes of textiles away from landfill by 2019. Eleven countries, including the UK, have signed up to the ambitious plan so far. These are: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden. WRAP also hopes to extend the plan to Asia in future.

Waste clothes bound for recycling. Image courtesy of worldwearproject.com

Waste clothes bound for recycling. Image courtesy of worldwearproject.com

ECAP is based on WRAP’s UK-only scheme, Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). SCAP was launched to improve the sustainability of textiles across their life cycle from design to end-of-use. It brings together industry, government and retailers, in addition to running a campaign focused on changing consumer behaviour. WRAP has been addressing consumer behaviour around fashion for some time through its inspiring ‘Love Your Clothes’ campaign. SCAP also seeks to improve separation systems, giving priority to re-use over recycling; the latter being the more eco-friendly, energy efficient and cost-effective option on the whole.

Eighty organisations, representing 45% of the UK’s retail sales, signed up to SCAP 2020. This is a commitment to reduce the waste, water and carbon footprints of clothing supplied or received in the UK, based on 2012 levels. Signatories include large retail brands such as New Look, Next, Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and Tesco, as well as top British designer Stella McCartney. If the SCAP 2020 targets are met, this would mean saving the following: 16,000 tonnes of waste (equivalent to over 1,300 double decker buses), 420 million m3 of water (or 160,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (or the annual emissions of almost 250,000 cars).

The organisations and programmes helping to make ECAP happen.

The organisations and programmes helping to make ECAP happen.

WRAP has received funding of €3.6 million to undertake ECAP from the European Commission’s Life Programme and has teamed up with several other agencies in order to strengthen the initiative throughout Europe. These include sustainable fashion non-profit MADE-BY, the Danish Fashion Institute, the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and Rijkswaterstaat, which is linked to the Dutch Ministry of Environment. ECAP will be based on the SCAP formula, due to its success to date, although on a larger scale of course.

WRAP hopes to encourage positive change along the clothing supply chain from design to end-of-life through a circular economy and resource efficient approach. Due to the rise of fast fashion, consumerism and throwaway lifestyles over the last few decades, levels of waste ending up in landfill has become a huge concern globally, especially in wealthier nations. The significant amounts of water, chemicals and energy used before and during manufacturing and transportation mean that the clothing industry places much strain on natural resources and has an immense carbon footprint even before reaching the consumer.

Despite the challenges faced, WRAP and the other organisations involved in the European Clothing Action Plan seem determined to make a positive difference. Hopefully if every group along the clothing supply chain begins to implement better practices across Europe, the textile and fashion industries will become significantly more sustainable.