A new French law will prohibit the destruction of unsold products (including textiles,cosmetics, shoes and electronics) as part of broad new anti-waste policies.
The legislation, which will be in force by 2023, sets out over 100 sustainability principles including the elimination of automatic paper receipts and single use plastic in fast food restaurants. It also requires the re-use or donation of ALL unsold non-food goods to charity (except those that pose a health or safety risk).
The French government says €650 million worth of unsold consumer goods are destroyed or sent to landfill each year. In 2018 Richemont (owner of Cartier, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin) admitted to buying back and destroying $850 million worth of watches in order to avoid them hitting the resale market. In the same year Burberry fessed up to destroying around $50 million of unsold merchandise, and a similar amount the year before.
The new laws put serious heat on the luxury goods industry. In the home of high fashion, many brands destroy unsold stock to maintain scarcity, control distribution channels, and avoid products being sold at a discount (*gasp*). It's a great strategy for cultivating desire for your brand, but very bad news for the environment. An inability to incinerate excess It Bags and instead a requirement to donate them to the homeless must be sending shockwaves through boardrooms all over France.
Contributing to global waste is becoming a very expensive exercise in France. Laws already exist which oblige clothing manufacturers to contribute to the cost of disposal of their product, including at their end-of-life. Used clothing forms a significant part of landfill globally (hello fast fashion). Businesses which build ecological considerations into the design of their products contribute less to their ultimate disposal.
The legislation is the first of its kind in the world, so while we might not see similar Australian laws in the short term, it might eventually inspire a raft of similar measures here too. In the meantime, if you want to torch your Tom Ford in France, watch out.
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