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Pingree, DeLauro to GAO: What More Can Fashion Industry, Federal Government do to Curb Textile Waste Pollution

Fashion industry is responsible for more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, or about 10% of total annual global emissions

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, are calling on the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro to outline ways the fashion industry and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can better manage discarded clothing and textile waste. The Democratic congresswomen focused on the rise of the so-called “fast fashion” industry as a primary driver of textile waste pollution.

“The rate of waste from textiles has increased over the last two decades, in line with the advent of fast fashion,” Pingree and DeLauro wrote. “In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 17 million tons of textiles were generated in the United States, with 11.3 million tons landfilled, making up 7.7% of all municipal solid waste landfilled that year.”

“While local governments have the primary role in operating recycling programs, the federal government is an important stakeholder and contributes to these efforts in a variety of ways,” they continued. “Under federal law, certain federal agencies, such as EPA, help encourage recycling through education and outreach efforts to help build public support and awareness around this issue. For example, EPA’s National Recycling Strategy aims to help build a circular economy and increase the recycling rate to 50% by 2030.”

To better help Congress address this challenge, Pingree and DeLauro requested GAO’s assistance in addressing the following questions:

  1. To what extent is the U.S. textiles sector implementing practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. What actions has the EPA taken and what additional actions could EPA take to develop technologies and infrastructure to increase the amount of textiles that are recycled?
  3. What are the potential benefits and challenges of making the American textile industry more circular?
  4. To what extent, if at all, does EPA conduct outreach to states, industry, and the public to educate them regarding textile waste?
  5. What additional actions, if any, could the federal government take to help reduce textile waste?

The full letter is available here

Last week, Pingree spoke on the House floor about the growing threat of the fast fashion industry, calling attention to a pile of discarded clothing in Chile so large it can be seen from space.



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