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Defra launches Sustainable Clothing Action Plan at London Fashion Week

Models sashayed down the catwalk with clothes made partly from recycled materials at the start of London Fashion Week (20 February) as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs chose the event to launch its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.

The plan is not a new regulation, but a series of green pledges from 300 stakeholders in the fashion industry, including high street retailers, to improve the sustainability performance of clothing and to tackle throwaway fashion.

SCAP outlines commitments to make fashion more sustainable throughout its lifecycle from design, to manufacture, to retail and disposal.

The plan ultimately aims to urge retailers and consumers to do more to reuse their clothes (see MRW story). Only 16% of clothing is recycled each year in the UK.

Defra minister for sustainability Lord Hunt launched the event and said: I cant think of better event to launch SCAP. We in the UK are really excited to launch this event in the fashion industry.

He said the biggest challenge faced at the moment was climate change and sustainable fashion could help tackle it. He added: We need to ensure that clothing can be recyclable so it does not go to waste and landfill. He also said that the plan aimed to get more customers interested in sustainable clothing.

Lord Hunt joked: thank god I didnt have to walk down it [the catwalk].

However, the event did meet with criticism with some textile recyclers at a Defra after show meeting, at the Royal Geographical Society. One textile recycler said: Weve heard nothing about disposal and how recyclable materials are. Can we not have looked at design whether it is reusable? Weve heard nothing about recycled fibres at all. And it is a very established. And can I just say it is not a small business.

Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Sainsburys have signed up to a range of actions including increasing take-back and recovery of unwanted clothing. Projects are already underway and SCAP hopes to build on them.

Nike corporate responsibility senior manager Annie Francis said that the retailer will include recycled content in most of its product ranges by 2012 and reduce packaging in its shoeboxes. She said it will save Nike £6 million a year.

The SCAP is intended to be a living document that will be reviewed periodically, with the first review taking place in February 2010.

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