French President Emmanuel Macron has a plan to outlaw the widespread practice of destroying unsold clothes and luxury goods. The move has raised the question of whether Canada and other countries will follow suit.

Macron sought Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering S.A. -- the parent company of luxury brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga -- to lead a global movement in order to reduce the environmental footprint that the fashion industry produces. Many fashion companies burn items that don’t sell after discounts, or they bury them in landfills.

French Secretary of State for Ecology Brune Poirson is presenting a bill this summer that would ban fashion companies from destroying unsold clothes and shoes.

"There is a feeling of incomprehension and anger. Citizens no longer tolerate, that society produces to destroy,” she said in a statement. “Companies have to take steps to manage the end of life of the products, it has to be addressed right from the moment they are designed."


What about Canada?

While France is hoping to legislate rules on fashion waste, eco-friendly efforts are being made on a smaller scale in Canada and elsewhere.

"Established companies are making efforts in this direction but still a lot to do for sure,” Debbie Zakaib, executive director of the Montreal Metropolitan Fashion Cluster, told CTV Montreal.

“And start-ups usually start with eco responsible models right away. It's part of their values. We must also know better and share the possible solutions. We have seminars planned on the mmode agenda.”

In 2014, Canada was the waste champion per capita among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, with the equivalent of nearly a tonne of waste produced per capita, according to a report by The Canada Ecofiscal Commission (CEFC), a group of independent experts associated with several universities.

With only 0.5 per cent of the world's population, Canada produces two per cent of the volume of waste generated worldwide, according to the report.

The Quebec government wants 30 per cent of all companies in the province to adopt a sustainable development approach by 2020. But according to Recyc-Quebec, 20 per cent of industrial water pollution is attributable to the textile industry.

The World Wildlife organization says it takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton T-shirt – the same amount a human drinks in 2.5 years. According to ConsoGlobe, the water used every year in the world to make textile dyes is enough to fill 1.6 million Olympic swimming pools.

But it’s not only a question of wanting to save our planet. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which seeks to reduce waste, estimates that more than US$500 billion is lost globally every year due to clothing underutilisation and the lack of recycling. The latest “Pulse of the fashion industry” report estimated that the overall benefit to the world economy could be about US $192 billion in 2030 if the fashion industry implemented more sustainable measures.


What can you do to help?

Advocates for sustainable fashion say consumers should only buy the clothes they really need. You can also reduce your ecological footprint by:

  • Giving priority to eco-friendly clothing, and buying locally-made clothes.
  • Choosing ecological detergents because we know that half of the pollution generated by our clothes is due to their washing.
  • Renting some of your clothes instead of buying, or getting them custom-made
  • Checking out a textile recovery sorting center, where you can find some amazing pieces
  • When you get tired of wearing something, give it to someone or to a charity, or even turn it into sewing material. The idea is to keep the article in use as long as possible.