In their report ‘Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’ the Environmental Audit Committee today called on the Government to prevent the incineration and landfill of unsold clothing stock.

According to Recommendation 13 of the report:

“While incineration of unsold stock ‘recovers’ some energy from the products, it multiplies the climate impact of the product by generating further emissions and air pollutants that can harm human health…Climate changing emissions will have been generated when the products were created and more CO2 will be produced when they are burnt. The waste hierarchy suggests that reuse and recycling comes first. This should be a priority means of dealing with unsold stock. Incineration should only be used as a last resort where there is a health and safety case for destroying the stock. The Government should ban incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled.

The Committee’s press release announcing the report stated that:

“Increasing a garment’s lifetime is one of the most effective means of reducing its environmental footprint. Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household bins every year with around 80% of this incinerated and 20% sent to landfill.

A charge of one penny per garment producers as part of a new EPR scheme could raise £35 million for investment in better clothing collection and recycling in the UK. The Government should offer incentives for design for recycling, design for disassembly and design for durability.

Following Burberry’s decision to incinerate unsold stock worth millions last year, the Committee is calling on the Government to ban incineration or landfilling of unsold stock that can be reused or recycled.”

Back in September 2018 the Environment Agency was criticised by Eunomia’s Peter Jones for not formally investigating the Burberry incident and more generally for not enforcing the Waste Hierarchy more rigorously. At the time the Environment agency cited their “limited resources” as one of the reasons why they did not formally investigate the matter.

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