Buying less things is one of the most obvious way for consumers to reduce their own waste. But it turns out that even not buy things can generate waste. Each year, the producers and the retailers to send millions of unsold products directly to the landfill or the incinerator. Now, France is doing something about it.
In what could be the first legislation of its kind in the world, this year, the French parliament has forbidden the companies to dispose of many types of unsold goods. Instead, producers will be required to reuse, redistribute, or recycle unsold products.
Despite the existence of outlet malls, it is an open secret that fashion companies often destroy unsold merchandise rather than surrender. They don’t want to sacrifice a brand image of rarity and exclusivity.
In 2018, the fashion company Burberry burnt $38 million dollars worth of product. But this is not only a high fashion issue. Fast fashion brand H&M has been criticized for destroying unsold clothing in 2010, and more recently, even Nike has been caught in the act.
In fact, this is not just a fashion problem. A documentary has revealed that Amazon has destroyed more than 3 million products – from electronics to diapers – in France last year. Unsold goods of a value of more than $ 900 million dollars are lost every year in France.
The French Law
The new law is much broader than a simple disposal ban. It includes more than 100 measures of sustainability to be implemented by 2023. These include the elimination of automatic paper receipts and the end of single-use plastics in the fast-food chains. But the prohibition of the sale of unsold goods is the most attention-grabbing and innovative.
France is home to many global high fashion companies who now have to find more environmentally friendly ways to maintain the exclusivity of their brands. But the law will also apply to electrical appliances, hygiene products and cosmetics. And, according to the French government, it is the first law of its kind in the world.
The famous frugal French are the leaders of producer responsibility and waste reduction. They already have laws requiring manufacturers of clothing to contribute to the cost of end-of-life product disposal. And a few years ago, France adopted a waste prevention of the act relating to grocery stores. French grocers are now required to give food when it reaches its sell-by date. As a result, many French retailers, such as carrefour, have started to campaign for the reform of the misleading “sell by” dates of confusion among consumers and to encourage them to discard and replace a perfectly safe food.
The Legal Limits
However, the new unsold goods of the law is not perfect. When the bill was first debated last year, it has included a measure that would require financial penalties or jail time for the destruction of unsold goods. However, unlike the previous grocery store laws, the final version of this new law does not include sanctions for non-compliance.
Therefore, it is difficult to say whether manufacturers and retailers to participate in the new requirements at all, especially if the disposal of the products is less expensive than giving them, or recycle it.
The first of the clauses of the bill are not intended to take effect until 2021, and the full implementation is not scheduled to take effect until 2023. With so much attention given to the pandemic, it is impossible to say whether the companies have started to seriously consider how they will manage the new requirements. It could be that this initiative, like many others, will be abandoned in the wake of the pandemic.
On the other hand, as the pandemic has devastated the sales of iconic French foods such as Champagne and foie gras, producers have scrambled for new distribution options. Presumably, they have already practiced this skill as a result of the 2015 grocery of the law. The reactions of the fashion houses have been more mixed. While some are raising prices – a tactic likely to lead to more unsold goods, others have cancelled production orders.
I hope that, when these companies summary of manufacture, they will do so with an eye to avoid overproduction. After all, the elimination of overproduction is the ultimate goal of the unsold of the law in the first place.
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