Linear to Circular Waste Policies: Breathing Life into the Polluter Pays Principle?
Recycling clothes is lauded as a sustainable textile waste management strategy. A significant percentage of recycled clothes are exported to the Global South as second-hand clothing. Increased exports result in the accumulation of second-hand clothing waste in these countries. The result is a shift in responsibility for textile waste from consuming nations in the Global North to ‘recycling’ nations in the Global South. However, this ‘recycling fallacy’ perpetuates a form of fashion injustice. Waste laws, founded on the ‘polluter pays principle’, are ineffective at addressing the second-hand clothing waste problem in receiving countries. Therefore, the circular economy framework is influencing the redesign of waste laws. The circular economy could redress the problem by revitalising the polluter pays principle and extended producer responsibility policies and embedding life cycle approaches. This paper explores this possibility, using examples from Kenya (a major importer of second-hand clothing) and the European Union (a key exporter of reused clothing with emerging circular economy regulatory frameworks).
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