EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles
In the EU, the consumption of textiles, most of which are imported, now accounts on average for the fourth highest negative impact on the environment and on climate change and third highest for water and land use from a global life cycle perspective. About 5.8 million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year in the EU, approximately 11kg per person, and every second somewhere in the world a truckload of textiles is landfilled or incinerated.
As clothing comprises the largest share of EU textile consumption (81%), the trends of using garments for ever shorter periods before throwing them away contribute the most to unsustainable patterns of overproduction and overconsumption. Such trends have become known as fast fashion, enticing consumers to keep on buying clothing of inferior quality and lower price, produced rapidly in response to the latest trends.. Moreover, the growing demand for textiles is fueling the inefficient use of non-renewable resources, including the production of synthetic fibers from fossil-fuels.
These negative impacts have their roots in a linear model that is characterised by low rates of use, reuse, repair and fibre-to-fibre recycling of textiles, and that often does not put quality, durability and recyclability as priorities for the design and manufacturing of apparel. The shedding of microplastics from synthetic textiles and footwear during all stages of their lifecycle further adds to the environmental impacts of the sector.
The complex and diverse global textile value chain is also faced with social challenges, in part driven by pressures to minimize production costs to meet consumer demand for affordable products. Child labour in the apparel industry is a grave source of concern. As women make up the majority of the low-wage and unskilled textile workforce, improving the sustainability of the supply chain has also an important gender equality dimension. With its increased attention to social and environmental sustainability, the EU seeks to strengthen global value chains, thus contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide...
This Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles aims to create a coherent framework and a vision for the transition of the textiles sector whereby:
By 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment. Consumers benefit longer from high quality affordable textiles, fast fashion is out of fashion, and economically profitable re-use and repair services are widely available. In a competitive, resilient and innovative textiles sector, producers take responsibility for their products along the value chain, including when they become waste. The circular textiles ecosystem is thriving, driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fibre-to-fibre recycling, while the incineration and landfilling of textiles is reduced to the minimum.