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LONDON – The chairman of the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Philip Dunne MP, has written to the Environment Secretary saying a “culture of delay” at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is holding up progress on promised environmental policies to tackle fashion waste.

In his letter to the Secretary of State, the MP singles out tackling fast fashion as one of several key areas with slow progress.

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In the last Parliament, the EAC published a report on measures to tackle the negative environmental impacts of cheap clothing. Ministers rejected the majority of the report’s recommendations, but the Government did pledge to launch a consultation on tackling textile waste, taking into account an EPR scheme and product design and consumer information.

“In view of what appears to be endemic delay in making progress on important environmental policies, the committee has asked me to request, by return, a clear timetable giving the dates by when each of the documents listed in this letter are now expected to be issued,” Dunne’s letter said.

It adds: “In February 2019 our predecessor Committee published its report on Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability. In that report the Committee warned that, in the absence of effective policies to deal with textile waste, over 300,000 tonnes of textiles were being thrown into household black bins every year and sent to landfill or incinerators.

“The Government rejected many of the recommendations in that report, but it did add textiles to a list of five priority waste streams to tackle. DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Programme for England consultation, published in March 2021, confirmed that the Department would seek to complete consultations for two material streams by 2022: textiles and fishing gear.

“The consultation on textiles was supposed to consider a possible Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for textiles and the introduction of requirements for product design, labelling and consumer information, e.g. for durability, recyclability and recycled content. Neither consultation has yet materialised.

“We understand that certain environmental groups have made formal representations to your Department on the time taken to make progress on certain significant policy matters. In that letter, which was copied to the Office for Environmental Protection, they warn that ‘delay is at risk of becoming the default culture in DEFRA’. Sadly, this is a characterisation that we recognise.

Editor’s Note: This culture of delay has become endemic across the entire UK public sector since the pandemic broke, as anybody who lives her will attest to.

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