Redesigning the textile sector to make it greener, more sustainable and more competitive is the new challenge that the European Union has just launched to all member countries.
On March 30, 2022, the European Commission approved the new EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, the guidelines with which – by 2030 – it wants to promote the ecological and energy transition of the textile sector, following up the action plan for the circular economy already adopted in spring 2020.
A measure encouraged by the need to cope with the climate emergency and reduce the environmental impact of the textile sector. As stated in the EU report: “European consumption of textiles has, on average, the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. It is also the third highest area of consumption for water and land use, and fifth highest for the use of primary raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions”.
The new European strategy aims at the design and development of more durable, reusable, recyclable textile products, made with sustainable processes and materials. Among the objectives, to counter the spread of the now famous “fast fashion”, to feed new production models that allow the management of the entire life cycle of products to reduce pollution and waste, to create a more efficient and eco-friendly textile industry, respectful of workers and consumers.
Let’s see some of them in detail.
A new design for green production
The sustainable and circular textile of the future starts from a new way of doing design. The “Ecodesign for Sustainable Products” regulation establishes new design requirements for textile products, to extend their life cycle, make them easier to repair, recycle and reuse, promoting a different way of producing and consuming.
An approach that also aims to increase the quality and performance of fabrics, thus reducing the possibility that they will be wasted in fact, polluting the environment. As the European Commission claims: “In 2021 alone, existing eco-design requirements saved consumers €120 billion“. Furthermore, in favor of the energy transition, the regulations on the subject: “have also led to a 10% lower annual energy consumption by the products in scope”. While: “By 2030, the new framework can lead to 132 mtoe of primary energy savings, which corresponds roughly to 150 bcm of natural gas“.
More and more sustainable fabrics
In addition to the theme of eco-design, particular attention is paid to the sustainability of the materials that must be used for the production of textile products and to the need to minimize the use of harmful chemicals during the various processing stages: indispensable, both to allow the protection of consumers and the environment, and to be able to recycle fabrics, avoiding them being sent to landfills.
To ensure complete traceability of textile products, the European Commission has also provided for the introduction of a digital passport that will contain information on the country of origin of the fabrics and on compliance with environmental sustainability and circularity obligations. In addition, the adoption of digital identity documents will facilitate repair or recycling and facilitate control over the acquisition and use of raw materials along the entire supply chain. Finally, a regulation for digital labeling of fabrics is being evaluated.
Stop microplastic pollution
To contain pollution, the EU wants to encourage the production of textiles capable of stopping the unintentional release of microplastics into the environment. A problem linked above all to the use of fabrics made with synthetic fibers, which during washing leave small particles of polluting plastic substances in the wastewater, impacting the health of our seas, oceans and natural ecosystems. Producers will also have to ensure the high quality of the synthetic fibers used – if possible, preferring materials arriving from recycling and reuse processes. Added to this is the development of industrial processes that ensure the reliability and sustainability of textile products and the dissemination, among consumers, of good practices that encourage more careful and ecological care of the garments.
Circular management of end-of-life textiles
It is not enough to produce better or produce less to contain the environmental impact of the textile sector. Indeed, the European Commission aims to make producers responsible for what happens when textile products are discarded. Through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, brands in the textile sector must also undertake to manage the end-of-life of the textiles made. A measure that aims to encourage more responsible environmental management policies, focused on the sustainable collection of waste and its recovery, meeting the new EU directives for the separate collection of textile waste, according to which, starting from 1 January 2025, all States members will have to face – also in this sector – a sustainable collection, based on circular economy principles.
But that is not all. The new European directives also concern other important issues: the fight against the so-called “greenwashing”, with the aim of promoting serious and transparent sector information on environmental matters, the launch of a policy aimed at discouraging the destruction of textile products returned or unsold, the proposal of economic incentives for businesses to make products more sustainable and tools to combat counterfeiting.
nd now? Everyone’s commitment is needed to move from good intentions to action. Greenperfoming, with its Manifesto, has already begun to do so.