Textiles and clothing are among the most wasteful and polluting sectors in the EU, and it is time for a total rethink. Virginjus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, made the case for a new start – from design and production to recycling and disposal.
Two hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution brought mass-produced textiles to everyone. Clothing for generations means affordable comfort, convenience and style. But at the end of the 21stSt Between 2000 and 2015, textile production doubled, with much acceleration. With the advent of fast fashion, new problems emerged, and the often soulless, mass-produced clothes represented waste, pollution, and massive depletion of resources. Now is the time for a new revolution. It is time for sustainable textiles.
With industrialized apparel production, the latest designs are just a click away. Fast fashion clothes may look great, but they don’t hold their value. They cannot be repaired and are sent to landfills, incineration or remote locations. It’s a model of overproduction and overconsumption, and it’s getting out of control.
EU citizens throw away 5.8 million tons of textiles and clothing every year, which is more than 11 kg per person. These individual items are cheap to produce, but the price of the planet is huge. The textile industry is the third largest user of water and land and is in the top five for raw material use and greenhouse gas emissions. And as we move to decarbonize our economy, nearly 70% of textile materials still come from fossil fuels.
The time has come Reset the trend. To reduce the sector’s environmental footprint, we need to fundamentally change the way textiles are produced and used. The thinking behind the EU strategy is for sustainable and circular textiles.
If we want our fabrics and clothes to last longer, they must be designed with time in mind. They are made from materials that do no harm to the planet, and can be repaired, reused or upcycled to make something new. We must once again appreciate the craftsmanship that makes it possible to do this, which is one of the main purposes of this. European Year of Skills.
We also need young people on board. It will take the power of youth, responsible consumers and future designers and manufacturers to make this new, sustainable textile revolution a reality. The fashion industry is filled with many young role models working to change the perception of the textile life cycle – many of whom have Set the trend again – #refashion now A campaign is now underway. 98% of the EU’s textile sector is SMEs, many of them small and ecologically aware, armed with energetic young entrepreneurs, boldly competing with wasteful multinationals.
At the Commission, we are looking to increase the resilience of the sustainable circular textile sector and make life easier for these visionary SMEs. The final decisions are still pending, but the agreement should include skills concessions, support for second-hand markets, tax breaks and other incentives for repairers and craftsmen.
Trends change, and fast fashion is no different. Right now, as part of our fabric strategy, we’re using three different methods to try and accelerate the change.
The first is a new approach to design. If we want to extend the life of textiles sustainably, design is the best place to start. If we want to reduce microplastics in the marine environment, we must first stop putting them in products, and it starts with design. This is the thinking behind the new EU rules, such as the Codification for Sustainable Product Regulation, which brings new rules to increase sustainability across the board, including in the textile sector (now, we are consulting the public in which sectors should be the first. Line – Follow This link to give your feedback).
The second strategy is to provide users with more reliable information. Most of these clothes are imported from outside the Union, and we want to raise awareness about how they work. This should go beyond labels simply indicating place of origin – it can also include richer information about materials, the amount of water used in production and disposal options. This also includes a tougher attempt to stamp out greenwashing, with new rules for companies now on the way.
Finally, in the minds of many people, fast fashion means poor labor conditions that are invisible to the eye. This is now being dealt with and the commission proposed it in February of last year New rules To ensure that manufacturers and suppliers who wish to sell their goods in the EU market comply with EU human rights and safety standards. The proposal is now being discussed between the institutions, and I hope to see it on the books of the EU soon.
That first industrial revolution was the rise of the machines – heartless, brutal and bad for the planet. Rebooting the trend takes a different approach, putting humans back at the heart of the process. We wear our clothes next to our skin. Isn’t it time to put some humanity back into touch?