A new report into the environmental impact of the UK clothing industry has shown the value of collaborative action, as signatories to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) outperform industry in cutting carbon, water and waste, says WRAP.
The report, “Valuing our Clothes: the Cost of UK Fashion“, is an update of WRAP’s 2012 assessment of industry that led to the launch of the SCAP voluntary agreement. Since that time WRAP has worked closely with major clothing designers, brands, manufacturers, retailers, fashion houses and reuse and recycling organisations to drive forward more sustainable production and buying practices, and increase the instances of reuse and recycling of clothing.
The report highlights a 0.8% saving for every tonne of clothing sold by SCAP retailers – equivalent to 30 pairs of women’s jeans for every tonne of jeans sold – although its waste target remains 3.5% by 2020.
In terms of water, it reports a a 13.5% reduction in water use on every tonne of clothing sold by SCAP retailers – enough water to fill 23,000 bath tubs or nearly three Olympic sized swimming pools, per tonne sold. And on carbon reduction, a 10.6% reduction on every tonne of clothing sold by SCAP retailers – enough CO2 to fill one-and-a-half hot air balloons, per tonne sold.
SCAP membership has grown quickly and now accounts for more than half of the UK clothing market (60%).
Delighted By Progress
Steve Creed, Director Business Programmes WRAP, said “I am delighted by how well SCAP signatories are doing. At this stage of the agreement they are not only well on the way to achieving the targets, but continue to outperform the sector as a whole – particularly in sustainable cotton. It’s amazing that twenty percent more cotton is now sustainably-sourced by signatories than when we began. And having high-street names like M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s setting ambitious sustainable cotton targets will help ease the pressure on some of the world’s most water-sensitive countries.”
WRAP is now calling on retailers and brands to focus on a number of priority garments which it has identified as having the highest environmental costs in terms of manufacture, and which sell in the largest numbers. Top of the list are women’s dresses, jumpers and jeans, followed by men’s t-shirts and jumpers. Women’s jeans were singled out in terms of the amount of water used during their production, while dresses and jumpers and men’s t-shirts are similarly high volume products which require work to tackle their carbon footprint and supply chain waste.
WRAP is keen that attention remains firmly fixed on driving towards the SCAP 2020 targets, and the organisation is calling for more retailers to set goals of 70% sustainable cotton by 2020. It wants an ambitious 60% of household washes to routinely run at the lower 30C setting by 2020, with SCAP signatories and supporters helping householders make this switch.
In addition, WRAP found that the amount of clothing in household residual waste has decreased since 2012, falling by 50,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes in the household waste stream. This is a fall of 14% on 2012 (against a SCAP target of 15%). WRAP believes that a number of factors have driven this change, with reuse and recycling signatories helping to divert an increasing amount of clothing away from landfill at end of life, and lower clothing sales prior to 2012.
Said Steve Creed, “It’s great to see fewer clothes ending up in the residual waste, but overall our carbon footprint, including global and territorial emissions, has risen to more than 26 million tonnes CO2e. That’s nearly 2 million tonnes greater than five years ago due to increased clothing purchases, thanks to relatively low prices and the increased population. The next few years are critical in balancing this growing demand with supplying clothes more sustainably. I’m confident SCAP will play a big part in helping to make this happen, and make sustainable fashion much more mainstream.”
You can download the report here