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Ecodesign requirements for a reusable, repairable and recyclable textile industry

In its newly published report, the environmental coalition ECOS is calling for mandatory ecodesign requirements for textiles to reduce the environmental impacts of the textile industry and make it circular.

Any kind of textile products around the world has a giant ecological footprint, in its whole lifecycle. Or to be honest, in its whole lifeline. Because textiles’ circular economy is still on the waiting list while reducing carbon footprint from the fashion industry is a must. Clothes are produced, consumed and thrown away in the current linear take-make-dispose model. It causes an unimaginable pressure on Earth’s resources, environment and climate and it causes an unimaginable pressure on us: the textile industry must act to ensure a sustainable, livable future.

Between 2000 and 2015 the total amount of clothes produced in the world doubled and EU households play an outstanding role in it: they spend 527.9 billion euros on clothes and textile products every year. Moreover, the share of synthetic fibres is now higher than ever, over 65 per cent of total production and only 1 per cent of all textiles collected is routed for textile-to-textile recycling.

ECOS points out that before the textiles are put on the market, they should meet the requirements for minimum lifetimes, durability, reusability, repairability and recyclability. These requirements also should prohibit the occurrence of hazardous, toxic chemicals and limit the release of microplastics.

“Unless we slow down, our planet will become the ultimate fashion victim,” reads the report. “But what if our clothes lasted longer and were easier to reuse and mend, without harmful materials? The environmental impacts of the textile sector would be dramatically cut. Studies show that if we used our clothes for an average extra 9 months, the overall footprints would be reduced by 20 to 30 per cent.”

“This is entirely possible and could be done building on the lessons learnt from the implementation of the ecodesign approach in other sectors,” it continues. “Thanks to the existing ecodesign regulations, a number of appliances, such as TVs or washing machines, now comply with minimum requirements. These rules are estimated to bring energy savings of approximately 230 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) by 2030 – a true success story for the EU and one that could be transposed to other priority sectors, including textiles.”

Therefore, ECOS is asking the EU Commission to apply ecodesign principles to textile products by extending the current regulation in the Ecodesign Directive.

At the same time, the coalition is welcoming other similar initiatives as well, raising attention to their week points: they are ineffective in many ways, for example, they lack requirements for minimum desired lifespan of products, lack definitions of what high-quality fabrics are, contain only a limited reference to recycled content or natural fibre content of fabrics, marginally address chemical additives and material composition and include no methods to address the problem of microplastics shedding of synthetic fibres.

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