In a resounding commitment to combating the environmental toll of fashion waste, the French government has unveiled a groundbreaking repair program that aims to revolutionize the fashion industry. This bold initiative seeks to address the mounting challenges posed by disposable fashion, laying the foundation for a more sustainable future.
As the world confronts the ecological and social repercussions of fast fashion, France's repair program emerges as a beacon of hope, encouraging circular practices and conscious consumption while redefining the relationship between consumers, their garments, as well as their manufacturers. Let’s find out together what this program is about, how it works and its potential consequences.
Origins of the Repair Program: A Response to Fashion Waste
Announced on July 11, 2023, at La Caserne by Bérangère Couillard, then Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, the program seeks to tackle the alarming amount of garments that end up in landfills, contributing to the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. This program was created based on the previous "repair bonus" initiative for electrical and electronic devices that was launched on December 15, 2022. The program is part of the AGEC law that was passed on February 10, 2020, which aims to shift from a linear economy (produce, consume, throw away) to a circular economy. Over the years 2023-2028, a fund of 154 million euros will support this innovative initiative.
Born out of a deep concern for the burgeoning issue of textile waste, France’s repairing program was designed to encourage people to have their clothes and shoes repaired. Extending their lifespan helps to avoid premature disposal and thus reduces the consumption of new products. Refashion, the eco-organization piloting the scheme explains that the scheme's mission is to increase the volume of textiles and shoes repaired in France by 35% by 2028. The Repair Bonus will come into effect in autumn 2023, with the exact date not yet released.
Everything sounds great, but how does it work?
Repair Process: How the Program Works
The repair program operates as a cohesive partnership between consumers, repair shops, and the government, intertwining financial incentives with sustainable practices.
To benefit from the aid, consumers need to first obtain the service from one of the Refashion-labeled professionals located throughout France. To be certified, the repairers must follow a simple and no-fee charge application on Refashion platform.
In addition to that, there are four main points to consider regarding how the program works.
1) Which products are eligible for the bonus?
All clothing and/or footwear from the TLC sector, excluding underwear and household linen (for phase 1), are eligible for the Repair Bonus. These are repairs, not alterations (sizing) or upcycling activities.
2) Bonus amounts and eligible repairs.
For each category, the bonus amount must represent a maximum of 60% of your repair cost. For shoes, the financial aid ranges from 7 euros to 25 euros. For textiles, it ranges from 6 euros to 25 euros. A more detailed explanation of the financial aid of each reparation can be discovered directly on Refashion.The minimum repair price eligible for the bonus is €12 incl. VAT.
3) Is there a limited number of items eligible for the repair bonus?
There is no limit to the number of products covered by the scheme. Therefore, it is possible to have one item or ten items repaired and to repeat the operation as many times as necessary.
4) Can I benefit from the scheme by carrying out a repair myself?
No, you must have the mending completed by a certified repairer. The bonus does not apply to repair costs incurred by someone who buys haberdashery materials to patch their own clothes.
In case you had additional information on how the program works, I invite you to check the FAQ sectionon Refashion.
The Impact of the Repair Program
The repair program holds the potential for a multitude of positive consequences that extend beyond reducing the volume of textile waste. At its core, this initiative encourages a shift from disposable consumer behavior to a culture of mindful and deliberate consumption. By incentivizing individuals to repair their clothing and footwear, the program fosters an enhanced appreciation for the value of durable and well-crafted items. Since its proposal, the repair program has sparked a wave of enthusiasm and support from public opinion, highlighting a shift in consumer attitudes.
Moreover, the repair program acts as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth, particularly within local communities. Skilled artisans and repair shops stand to benefit from increased demand for their services, potentially revitalizing traditional craftsmanship and bolstering local economies.
Additionally, the program serves as a focal point for societal awareness, sparking conversations about sustainability and prompting individuals to reconsider their role in the fashion supply chain.
Exploring Potential Drawbacks
While the repair program holds immense promise, it is essential to critically examine potential drawbacks. First of all, the success of the program hinges on the accessibility of repair services. Disparities in repair shop availability, particularly in remote or underserved areas, could undermine the program's effectiveness and limit its impact on a broader scale. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to ensure equitable access to repair services for all citizens.
Furthermore, another concern pertains to the scope of repair covered by the bonus. In fact, the reason for excluding upcycling and re-sizing crafts from the bonus remains mysterious. Regarding upcycling, I find the distinction with the practice of repair very unclear. In fact, upcycling serves as a method of augmented reparation of an item near the point of being thrown away, so that new life can be found. If the goal of the program is to discourage consumers from throwing away their garments and using what they already have, why limit it to not including upcycling practices? The same thing goes for sizing alterations: we know that many garments are often thrown into landfills by consumers still with the sale tag on. Most of the time, this stems from misfits and size issues. So why leave it out of the program?
”France throws away 700,000 tons of clothing every year, and two-thirds of it ends up in landfills” - Mrs. B. Couillard
Conclusion: Pioneering a Sustainable Future
The people of France "throw away 700,000 tons of clothing every year," said Mrs. Couillard, adding that "two-thirds of it ends up in landfills". France's repair program exemplifies a bold and innovative approach to addressing this issue. By intertwining economic incentives with sustainable behaviors, the program not only reduces textile waste but also cultivates a shift toward responsible consumption.
While challenges exist, such repairing programs have the power to resonate far and wide, fostering economic growth, and stimulating a broader conversation about the importance of sustainable practices within the fashion industry.
As other nations look to France's pioneering efforts, the repair program serves as a testament to the power of collaborative initiatives that marry environmental consciousness with economic incentives. In a world where the fashion landscape is rapidly evolving, France's repair program offers a glimmer of hope and a tangible pathway toward a more sustainable and circular future.