The European Commission envisages a future textile industry without fast fashion: a fashion trend that the Commission links directly to the growing use of fossil-fuel based synthetic fibres and its impact on climate change. In its communication of EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles (COM(2022) 141 final), the Commission states that one of their main aims is having driven fast fashion out of fashion by 2030.
The Commission estimates that the consumption of textiles accounts for the fourth highest negative impact on the environment and on climate change, and third highest for water and land use. They also expose that fast fashion is a trend which entails producing and using garments for ever shorter periods, thus contributing to unsustainable patterns of overproduction. Consumers, they argue, keep buying clothes of inferior quality at lower prices, but the fact that they don’t save but spend more proves that this trend only generates overconsumption and waste.
The Commission’s document points out at several key actions for sustainable and circular textiles such as ecodesign requirements that will ensure that the quality of clothes is better, so that the good condition of garments lasts longer and, consequently, customers may wish to hold onto them for longer. Besides, a longer garment life will support circular business models such as re-use, resale or repair. Also, under the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, the Commission proposes “a transparency obligation requiring large companies to publicly disclose the number of products they discard and destroy” aimed to disincentivise the destruction of unsold or returned garments.
In section 2.3 the document focuses on the issue of microplastics pollution, as textiles made of synthetic fibres are considered one of the main sources of release of microplastics into the environment. The Commission plans to tackle the problem through binding design requirements, measures on manufacturing processes, labeling and the promotion of innovative materials.
In order to address the numerous issues related to the textile industry, the Commission also puts forward other measures including the introduction of a Digital Product Passport for textilescontaining mandatory information on circularity, the control of unreliable “green claims”, or new rules on extended producer responsibility under the Waste Framework Directive. The plans also include the promotion of new business models, such as product-as-service, take-back services, repair services and second-hand collections. There will also be financial support for the sector transition under existing programmes such as Europe Horizon, LIFE or the European Regional Development Fund.
In sum, the declaration of intent of the Commission is that by 2030 textile products are long-lived and recyclable, made mainly of recycled fibres, free of hazardous subtances and produced respecting social rights and the environment, addressing overproduction and overconsumption with the ban of destroying fashion and textile stocks. Fast fashion will be out of fashion, so consumers will benefit longer from quality sustainable textiles and economically profitable re-use and repair services will be widely available.