A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to increase funding given to fabric recycling projects to enable a more circular economy in the textile recycling industry.
The recommendation came from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion (APPG), which said the move would increase UK-based end markets for used clothing, enabling “more resilient business models”.
The vast majority of used clothing collected in the UK is exported abroad to markets in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, to be re-worn.
However, in recent months many textile recyclers have said they have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Several export markets have closed, leading to a ‘pile up’ of used clothing in factories and hitting the price recyclers can pay for clothing from textile banks and charity shops.
Price is also greatly dictated by quality, with very few end markets available for low quality clothes.
The report said that to increase the “sustainability” of the industry, the government needs to invest in research and development in more sustainable fabrics that can be recycled into new clothes, support new start-up companies operating with “sustainable business models”, and invest in skills to “bring jobs back to the UK”.
Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and chair of the APPG, said: “Coronavirus has exposed deep inequalities and unsustainability in the garment industry. Creating a sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry is an important but complex challenge for government, industry and the public and what is clear is that there is an appetite for this on all sides.
“We must seize this moment and put these recommendations into action by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, both within the UK and globally.”
The full list of recommendations can be seen here.
Supported by environmental charity Hubbub, the APPG report sets out how the sector could follow a more sustainable route and the role that government and consumers might play.
Hubbub commissioned a survey of 3,000 UK adults and found that a third of people bought fewer clothes during lockdown, 65% wanted the fashion industry to “slow down” and 73% wanted the government to invest in UK fabric recycling facilities.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion was created in February 2020 by Catherine West MP and Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE. The group is currently funded by Hubbub.