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Stitch in time: France to help pay for clothes to be mended to cut waste

Jul 21, 2023

People will be able to claim back €6-€25 of cost of repairing clothes and shoes in latest environmental measure

A broken heel, a rip in trousers, buttons missing from a shirt? Don’t throw them away if you live in France, where the government will pay a “repair bonus” to have them mended in a new scheme aimed at cutting waste.

An estimated 700,000 tonnes of clothing is thrown away in France every year, two-thirds ending up in landfill.

From October, people will be able to claim back between €6 and €25 of the cost of mending clothes and shoes in workshops or at cobblers that have joined the scheme.

Bérangère Couillard, the secretary of state for ecology, announced the financial incentives during a visit to a responsible fashion hub in Paris. The repair bonus will be paid from a €154m fund the government has set aside for the next five years, she said.

She invited all sewing workshops and shoemakers to join the scheme, which will be run by the eco-organisation Refashion. “The goal is to support those who carry out repairs,” Couillard said during the visit. This would encourage workshops and retailers to offer repair services with “the hope of recreating jobs”.

More than 100bn textiles – the terms covers clothing, shoes and household linen – are sold worldwide annually. In France, this amounts to about 10.5kgs a year for each person.

Refashion aims to encourage people not only to repair and reuse, but to reduce the amount of textiles they buy and to donate those they no longer want. It says about 56% of the donations can be used again and 32% can be recycled into something new.

The repair bonus scheme is part of a wider push by the French government, starting at the end of last year, to reform the textile industry, one of the most polluting on the planet, and to combat what is termed fast fashion.

Clothing and textile shops must also label items with the material used and the country where it was produced and manufactured.

Measures to encourage consumers to repair, reuse and recycle clothing follow a similar scheme offering bonuses to those who have household appliances repaired.

In 2020, France passed a law aimed at changing production methods and consumption habits in relation to household goods in order to cut down on waste, conserve natural resources and limit damage to biodiversity while addressing the climate crisis.

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The legislation takes the form of a six-year plan that began with an education and information campaign outlining targets for the reduction, reuse and recycling of products, including targets for eliminating single-use plastics. New measures are introduced under the legislation each year.

In 2022, public buildings including railway stations, hospitals and schools were required to install a water fountain, and at the beginning of this year restaurants with more than 20 seats and fast-food outlets were banned from using disposable cutlery, plates and cups for meals consumed on site.

France in 2016 banned supermarkets from destroying unsold food instead of donating it for redistribution.

Companies are now also required to be more open about the planned obsolescence of goods they produce and encourage the publication of a “repairability index” to detail the ease or difficulty with which a product could be mended.

Further restrictions on products containing microplastics, including cosmetics, shampoos, hair dyes and shower gels, and the use of plastic wrappings will come into effect in the next three years.

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