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Reducing Fashion Waste in the UK: Lessons We Can Learn From France's Clothing Repair Bonus Scheme

A new garment repair scheme in France begins in October, which will encourage people to take their clothes and shoes to get mended, rather than throwing them into landfill.

The repair bonus scheme will allow people to claim "between €6 (£5) and €25 (£21) of the cost of mending clothes and shoes in workshops or at cobblers that have joined the scheme."

Here's why the UK should also follow suit and help to combat fast fashion waste.

Lessons We Can Learn From France's Clothes Repair Bonus Scheme

Lots of Clothes and Shoes are Salvageable

Shoes and clothes can be fixed. Even the cheap stuff. Sometimes, especially in the case of reheeling some shoes or boots, the replacement heel can last much longer than the original.

£5-£20 can go a long way in most common repairs. A local laundrette in Newcastle charges £13 to patch a hole in a pair of jeans. Small repairs like replacing a button or press stud costs just £3.

We can also learn to embrace the imperfections, especially when it comes to patching up jeans, jackets and other well-wearing clothes. In fact there are techniques like sashiko which have celebrated the aesthetics of visibly repairing clothes for centuries. 

Wear Clothes Longer

The immediate benefit of subsiding the cost of repairing clothes is that people will can wear their favourite clothes for longer.

It makes the decision to repair more attractive than buying a brand new replacement.

Cheap fashion is probably why so few clothes are repaired in the first place. For many, it isn't worth bothering attempting a repair when you can ship something impossibly cheap from Shein or Temu at the click of a button. 

In fact, 700,000 tonnes of clothing is thrown away in France every year, two thirds of it going to landfill. 

Lots of people may feel like they lack the time or skills to repair a garment. So giving them the chance to get it repaired by a professional will hopefully result in fewer garments being sent to landfill. 

Read More: Fast Fashion Environmental Facts

Hold Fast Fashion to Account

France's clothing repair scheme is funded by a special pot of money that the French government has set aside for five years.

The fund is around €154 million or £131.1 million.

Eco-organisation Refashion will run the repair scheme with all sewing workshops and shoemakers invited to join. 

But imagine if fast fashion brands and retailers had to pay the cost of repairing items instead?

It could encourage them to make clothes more durable in the first place.

Read More: How to Make Clothes Last Longer

Perhaps that's a bit of wishful thinking. But regardless of where the refund comes from, ultimately making repairs more affordable means people could potentially buy less brand new fast fashion.

Would that be enough to hit fast fashion brands where it hurts?

Encourage Careers in the Circular Economy

Setting up a repair fund is also a great way of creating more work for workshops and cobblers. In turn, it could allow for more jobs in order to meet the demand for clothing repairs. This can begin to grow, offering people more choices when it comes to repairing clothes, or investing in sewing equipment. 

What if we also introduced a scheme for getting clothes altered too? Or even funding crash courses on how to tailor and alter your own garments?

Embrace A More Circular Economy

Another good reason for a similar scheme is that it promotes a more circular economy all round. From the initial point of creating new items, making them last longer and to reusing them when they're getting towards end of life, having a repair scheme for clothes could have a wider knock on effect. 

Read More: Why is a Circular Economy Important?

Having a government-led fund really draws attention to the fact that repairing your clothes is something important, raising awareness and actually rewarding people for getting things repaired. 

This is not the only move that the French government is implementing. From 2020, they have started a six year plan which is backed by law to change production methods and consumptions habits in relation to household goods.

Other measurers including banning disposable cutlery, plates and cups for restaurants with more than 20 seats. 

The Guardian reports that more restrictions are also planned, particularly surrounding microplastics and plastic packaging. 

Switching to a more circular economy is going to require this carrot and stick approach. We will need to ban or phase out certain materials or ways of making items, in order to ensure more items can be reused over and over again. In the same way we need to make it desirable to reuse clothing or to want to take part in the circular economy. So creating funds to make it easier and more accessible would certainly help. 

So what do you think - should the UK also introduce something similar? Drop a comment below. 

Main Photo Credit

Alex Andrews, Pexels. See licence.

 

 

 

 

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