The European Commission is accelerating efforts to achieve climate neutrality within the textile industry through a number of initiatives spurred by the European Green Pact. The broad stroke goals are mitigating CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 – until reaching desired climate neutrality in 2050. The EC is responding to the textile sector’s huge economic and environmental impact – comprising more than 160 000 companies, employing 1.5 million people and generating a turnover of 162 billion euros. It is the fourth industry with the greatest impact on climate change and fifth that uses the most natural resources worldwide.
Here’s a snapshot on how the sector is being pushed by the EC (summarised from article published by Smoda):
- A common and circular design: The EU’s “eco-label” is something that companies can get if they meet certain requirements, for example, durability, good quality, restrictions on chemical substances or commitment to fabrics of sustainable origin. The EU initiative encourages companies to design garments with greater durability and recyclability that guarantee longevity of the garment. Durability considerations include colour fastness, tear resistance and quality zippers and seams, while recyclability pertains to non-contaminating fibres and fabrics. Only 13% of global textiles can be recycled.
- Fighting toxic substances: The EU initiative encourages companies to mitigate or replace the use of harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing process of garments, with particular focus on the use of microplastics – which include synthetic polymer microparticles less than 5mm and fibre-like particles less than 15mm that may cause an environmental release. A large proportion of leaks ending up in the ocean come from the friction of washing garments. Filters for washing machines may also reduce the volume of leaks ending up in the ocean.
- Redefining the concept of “sustainability”: An EU study found that around 39% of sustainability declarations do not have the data to certify it. Stricter conditions will be established for terms such as “ecological” or “environmentally friendly” which will only be allowed if recognized by eco-labelling. Consumers will be able to access reliable information about each garment through a QR code on the proposed digital product passport attached to each garment.
- Improving working conditions: The EU will force manufacturers to review their entire value chain in order to ensure rights of all workers are being respected. This includes the improvement of poor working conditions, particularly manufacturing plants, and the prohibition of child labour.
Services before products: Companies will be forced to publicise the number of products they discard and outline subsequent steps being either preparation for reuse, recycling, incineration or deposition in landfills. The export to other countries will also not be allowed. This will encourage companies to think pragmatically about establishing mechanisms that avoid the overproduction of garments including opening second-hand stores or initiatives focused on recycling.