EU’s Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles: Hope for the future of fashion?

EU's Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textile

Oh, at last! The weather is warm and the breeze is just as cool as it’s supposed to be! It’s fair to say that summer has arrived! But that also marks the beginning of seasonal sales. Which, to be honest, is nothing less than a deliberate and ill-natured attempt to skyrocket the already immense consumption of fast fashion.

So that’s why we think that it’s high time to take a look at the future of the textile industry through the EU’s Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles – a strategy document that was presented by the EU Commission in March.

You’ve probably heard a lot about the Green Deal?
And quite a bit about the future of the energy sector?

Sure. But did you know that in the EU, the consumption of textiles now accounts on average for the 4th highest negative impact on the environment and on climate change? And even worse from the perspective of water and land use? Yes, there, the textile industry ranks 3rd.

Since 1996, the amount of clothes bought in the EU per person has increased by 40% following a sharp fall in prices. That in turn has reduced the lifespan of clothing. Europeans use nearly 26 kilos of textiles and discard about 11 kilos of them each year, and 87% of it is incinerated or landfilled.

That’s the harsh reality. The reality we live in. And it’s time to act.

The new strategy 

Even though it has its shortcomings, we welcome the EU’s strategy and believe it’s a good start on its path forwards.

So, let’s have a look at the most prominent points and measures presented in the strategy:

  • New design requirements for textiles under the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, setting mandatory minimums for the inclusion of recycled fibers in textiles, making them longer-lasting, easier to repair and recycle. Under the proposed regulation, sustainable textiles products will become the norm in the EU.
  • Clearer information on textiles and a Digital Product Passport based on mandatory information requirements on circularity and other key environmental aspects.
  • Tight controls on greenwashing with stricter rules to protect consumers – general environmental claims, such as “green”, “eco-friendly”, “good for the environment”, will only be allowed if underpinned by recognised excellence in environmental performance.
  • Action to address the unintentional release of microplastics from textiles.
  • Extending producer responsibility and boosting reuse and recycling of textile waste, whilst ensuring that further value is being created. Making producers responsible for the waste that their products create is essential to decouple textile waste generation from the growth of the sector.
  • The Commission will also consider requiring that separately collected textile waste from households and similar waste is prepared for reuse as a necessary first step, which will boost preparing for reuse, reuse and repair activities and reduce the volumes for types of waste treatment that are lower in the waste hierarchy.

In conclusion, perhaps one of the biggest takeaways is that the EU is going to hold fast fashion brands accountable. Greenwashing will not be tolerated and the focus shifts on brands to create long-lasting quality garments. Also, all services that add quality are favored. That includes recycling and repairing, and, of course, upcycling - i.e. everything that is following the circularity principles.

It’s a decision we’ve been waiting for and aligns with our core beliefs. It’s what our brand has been about from the beginning and we can’t wait for more to come. We got a little glimpse into that when Reet visited Brussels for the EU Green Week. If you’re interested, feel free to listen to the recording of the circular economy panel “Designed to last: sustainable and connected products”, where Reet was one of the participants.