European Union sets the rules

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The European Union has already defined its strategy for the sustainability and circularity of textile products. The strategy reflects the European Union belief in “creating a more ecological and more competitive sector, which is more resistant to global shocks”. Thus, “all textile products launched in European markets should be long lasting, reparable and recyclable, manufactured to a large extent from recycled fibres, free of dangerous substances and produced in respect for social rights and the environment”.

Brussels considers that “disposable fashion is out of fashion and consumers are able to enjoy for longer high-quality textile products and at accessible prices”. To this end, there should “be widely available and profitable reutilisation and repair services”. The textile sector is, according to European Union, “a competitive sector, resilient and innovative, with the producers responsible for their products throughout the chain of value and the existence of sufficient capacities for recycling and incineration and disposal in landfills”.

Simultaneously recognising the importance of the textile sector, that integrates the commitments made under the European Ecological Pact into the new action plan for the circular economy industrial strategy, Brussels maintains that “textiles are the fabric of daily life: they are present in our clothing, furniture, medical and protective equipment, in our buildings and vehicles. However, as their respective environmental impact continues to rise, urgent measures need to be taken”.

In this phase, according to data from the European Union, “the consumption of textiles in the EU is the factor with the fourth largest impact on the environment and climate change, behind foodstuffs, housing and mobility. Furthermore, textiles are third in terms of their utilisation of hydric and soil resources and fifth in terms of usage of primary raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions”. On analysing the life cycle of textile products and proposing actions to alter how we produce and consume, “the strategy defines a new approach, which deals with these questions in a harmonised fashion”.

Among the forecast actions, the European Commission “shall establish requirements for the design of textiles in order to ensure they become longer lasting and easier to repair and recycle. In parallel, “disseminating clearer information about textiles and introducing a digital passport for products” and the “capacity for consumers to combat greenwashing, guarantee the exactitude of the ecological claims made by companies”.

In addition, “this shall bring an end to the overproduction and excessive consumption and dissuade the destruction of unsold or returned textiles”, as well as “harmonising the European legislation in terms of expanding the responsibilities of textile sector producers and the economic incentives for making products more sustainable”. Brussels promises to “combat the unintentional release of synthetic textile microplastics”. The European Union deems it essential “to face the challenges of exporting textile wastes and will, by 2023, adopt a set of EU instruments against counterfeiting”.