France soon to ban discarding or destroying unsold apparel

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has put forward a road map for the development of the country's circular economy. Of the document’s fifty proposals, the fifteenth covers measures to prohibit throwing away unsold textiles and apparel.


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The document issued by the PM’s office also indicated that 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.”

“For the time being, there are no specific indications, it’s a preliminary road map, but it’s good news,” said Valérie Fayard, Deputy General Manager of international solidarity movement Emmaus, speaking to French sustainability research centre Novethic.

Emmaus has been calling for the introduction of this measure for several months.

“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,” added Fayard.

It was Emmaus who, earlier in the year, sounded the alarm bell after a citizen of Rouen, France, filmed the destroying and discarding of clothes by French fashion retailer Celio.

Celio, a supporter of French association Agence du Don en Nature, which distributes unsold non-food products to the underprivileged, later stated that the products in question were unwearable and irretrievably damaged. But the event once again turned the general public's attention to the question of unsold apparel, a few weeks after a Danish current affairs programme reported that H&M appears to have burned twelve tons of clothing every year since 2013.

European consumers reportedly throw away four million tons of clothes each year, while at the same time five million tons are put on the market. In France, one of Europe’s largest apparel markets, 700,000 tons of clothing are thrown away each year, and only 160,000 tons are recycled.


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The measures the French government plans to introduce do not simply impact the textile and apparel industry in the field of unsold stock. Proposal number seven in the road-map document concerns the introduction of “voluntary environmental labelling for products and services in five pilot sectors (furniture, textiles, hotels, electronics and food products),” a solution which would extend to other industries in the course of 2018.

The French Prime Minister stated that the measures contained in the road map would be translated into legislation by 2019, as France implements the new EU directive on waste, and as part of the country’s future finance bills. In the meantime, a series of regulations and collective initiatives will be deployed, the government pushing companies to “engage voluntarily” in the matter.

France’s Alliance du Commerce, the organisation grouping together the country's main retail trade associations, including apparel and footwear, said it was not surprised by the news, and that it wishes to examine the measures in question before making any statement.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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