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A newly formed working group aims to develop policy solutions to address the fashion industry’s environmental impact. In light of growing concerns about fashion’s textile waste crisis, the group will propose enacting a ban on the destruction of unsold fashion goods. They will discuss the pros and cons of this proposal at the panel discussion, Should We Ban Unsold Fashion Waste? on October 15, 2019, during Sustainability Awareness Week at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The group is comprised of policy and textile waste experts, including  TNFI founder Lauren B. Fay, TNFI Board Member and The Conscious Closet author Elizabeth L. Cline, academic researcher Ariele Elia, FABSCRAP founder Jessica Schreiber, and Model Alliance founding director Sara Ziff

In 2018, luxury giant Burberry was caught destroying millions of dollars of unsold merchandise, revealing a pervasive and hidden industry practice to an outraged public. Fashion brands incinerate unsold goods in order to protect their exclusivity and value, among other reasons, and landfilling and burning of unsold clothes has been described as fashion’s “dirtiest open secret.”

In an effort to address fashion’s waste crisis, France has already proposed a ban on the destruction of unsold apparel goods. The working group will consider introducing a similar ban in the United States. Considerations include whether such a ban should start at the state or city level, how would it be enforced, and whether it would produce the desired effects or create unintended consequences.

The initiative comes in the wake of the largest Climate Strike in history, when an estimated seven million people across the world marched in an effort to urge governments and industries to address the climate crisis. With growing concern for fashion’s environmental impact, more and more companies are taking steps to offset their carbon footprint. But critics are asking whether such efforts go far enough and they are calling for industry-wide solutions that are enforceable.

“25 billion pounds of clothes go into landfills every year, indicating that brands are overproducing and waste has become a business model. What kind of policies could help brands shift towards more sustainable production?,” said Elizabeth L. Cline, author of The Conscious Closet: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

“The textile waste that ends up in landfills is a significant problem for which governments are struggling to find an effective solution. For brands that disregard this issue as a passing trend, I would urge them to consider the various environmental regulations being proposed on a global level. Brands must start to address this issue in a thoughtful and transparent manner,” said Ariele Elia, recent graduate of the MSL in Fashion Law from Fordham University School of Law and author of the academic article,  “Unsold Goods: Responsible Solutions for an Environmentally Conscious Future.”

“We have formed a coalition of innovators and thinkers to help local and state governments develop solutions to address the large volumes of textile waste they have to deal with.  We are one of several groups who can help address this complex problem,” said Lauren B. Fay, founder of The New Fashion Initiative (TNFI), a non-profit that focuses on the social and environmental impact of the fashion industry and affect change using integral education, research, and art.

”At all levels of government, city, state and federal, the elected representatives of the American people need to be looking at solutions to the problem.  This forum will be a great beginning to this dialogue” Hilary Jochmans, president of Jochmans Consulting, LLC, who has also written on political and regulatory issues of importance to the fashion and retail industry.

“Thoughtful legislation regarding textile waste may help accelerate the transparency and circularity that many brands are already aiming for by defining the problem, establishing compliance infrastructure, and creating accountability,” said Jessica Schreiber, Executive Director of FABSCRAP, a New York City non-profit that serves as a textile reuse and recycling resource.

“Models are raising their voices about the climate crisis, and the fashion industry has an important role to play,” said Sara Ziff, founding director of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization that advances fair working conditions and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. “I hope to help to ensure more sustainable practices in the industry by developing policy initiatives that will reduce fashion’s environmental impact.”

Should We Ban Unsold Fashion Waste? • Tuesday, Oct. 15 @ FIT’s Katie Murphy Ampitheater • 4pm – 5pm • Open to the public and Free.

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