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France’s pioneering plan to create a more sustainable fashion industry

Picture: Dreamstime
Picture: Dreamstime

The French government is doubling down on efforts to slash textile waste and make the clothing industry more sustainable.

The latest: In mid-March, parliament’s National Assembly approved new legislation that will penalise “fast-fashion” products — essentially mass-produced, cheap clothing that’s not made to last. The bill now moves to the Senate for final approvals.

If implemented, fast-fashion brands will have to pay a fee of as much as €10 on their products. The revenue raised will be used to subsidise more sustainable clothing options — particularly from local brands.

Fast-fashion companies will also need to be more transparent about their environmental impacts, and will be barred from advertising (including via social media influencers).

The context: This is the latest, yet most comprehensive, effort to crack down on waste in the clothing sector.

In October 2023, the French government began subsidising repairs of clothes and shoes. Under the scheme, consumers can claim up to €25 for clothing repairs from a €154 million fund that’ll run through 2028.

Meanwhile, the government has come out in support of an international coalition proposal to ban exports of textile waste to countries that aren’t able to manage it sustainably.

Why it matters: The textile industry is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the French ecological transition ministry said in a statement.

Moreover, global clothing production has doubled in 14 years, while the lifespan of clothing has declined by a third.

As a result, some 700,000 tonnes of clothes are thrown away in France every year, with the vast majority ending up in landfills.

The fast-fashion trend is also placing extra strain on precious water resources. According to the ecological transition ministry, 7,500 litres of water are needed to make a single pair of jeans. That’s roughly how much water a person drinks in seven years.  

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