Fashioning a better future: The EU’s Sustainable Textiles Strategy

James Beard, Valpak's Head of Voluntary Compliance summarises the key objectives of the EU’s strategy for sustainable textiles, provides an overview of the significant steps countries like France and Italy have taken to try and establish a circular economy for textiles, and discusses how other countries are likely to follow their lead.

The textile industry has a major impact on the environment, from the production of fibres to the disposal of clothing at the end of its lifecycle.

To address this issue, the European Union developed a strategy for sustainable textiles, aimed at creating a more circular and sustainable textile industry. It has been just over a year since it was published, so what progress has been made? Firstly, let’s have a recap of what the strategy entailed.

Key objectives of the EU’s strategy for sustainable textiles

The EU’s strategy for sustainable textiles has several key objectives. First, it seeks to promote the use of sustainable materials and production methods in the textile industry. This includes encouraging the use of organic and recycled fibres, as well as reducing the use of harmful chemicals and increasing energy efficiency in production processes.

Secondly, the strategy aims to promote circularity in the textile industry. This means designing products that are meant to be reused, repaired, or recycled at the end of their life, rather than being disposed of. The EU is working to develop a certification system for circular products, which will help consumers make more sustainable choices when shopping for clothing.

The strategy also includes measures to improve working conditions in the textile industry, particularly in developing countries where many textiles are produced. The EU is working to ensure that workers in the textile industry are treated fairly and paid a living wage and that their rights are respected.

France and Italy have set the bar

France has set the bar for a long time now, but we are starting to see progress in other EU nations. Italy has moved swiftly to position itself near the front of the pack when it comes to textiles EPR. The textile sector in Italy is large; consisting of over 40,000 companies it employs 300,000 people and is worth somewhere in the region of 52 billion Euros per year, which explains Italy’s desire to get ahead of the curve. In February a draft decree was issued outlining Italy’s plans to create an EPR system that prioritises reuse and makes producers more responsible for the items they place onto the market. Importantly, the draft decree places obligations on all producers selling in Italy, even distance sellers who only sell through the internet. In line with the EU strategy, the Italian draft decree suggests Italy will seek to scale up collection, reuse and recycling systems as well as encourage more circular design principles.

Whilst the final decree is yet to be published in Italy, we believe it will retain many of the ambitious and progressive elements seen in the draft. We’re also expecting things could move swiftly once the final decree is released.

Other countries may follow suit – be prepared

We are likely to see many more countries follow where France and Italy have led. The Netherlands will be forging ahead with its plans in early summer, and Scotland has also announced it intends to consult on textile collections after committing to follow the EU’s lead on this. With others also likely to make their own announcements in time, we expect to see a lot more progress made over the next 12 months.

We can help

With a truly international footprint, the Reconomy Group is well placed to assist you with your enquiries around textiles, regardless of the countries you operate in.

We recently hosted a webinar “Planet Vs. Profit: International Compliance for Textile Sustainability” for clothing retailers that operate in international markets or have global supply chains, to communicate what other countries are planning when it comes to textiles sustainability, how global retailers are engaging with consultations on textile sustainability and legislation, and to provide tips and advice on how to make sure producers’ voices are heard.

You can access a copy of the webinar recording via our Knowledge Hub.