In a joint letter sent in the first week of October 2021, eleven European countries have reached out to the European Commission in an effort to demand new measures to tackle the issue of waste in the textile industry. The joint letter was signed by eleven ministers from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

The letter is a follow-up to the roundtable discussion that took place on the 1st of June, 2021, attended by Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to discuss initiatives created by the European Commission. The letter was released by the eleven European countries as a response to share their views on the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles. The strategy was put in place to help the EU shift to climate-neutral circular products that are designed to be reused, repaired, and to be created to shape a sustainable future. The response from the eleven countries is exactly what is needed for the demands of the strategy to be met.

The ministers are calling for an ambitious and comprehensive strategy that highlights and focuses on the whole textile value chain. The countries call for urgency by the European Commission as the issues relating to textiles have risen significantly due to the Covid-19 crisis. In the EU, approximately 2.2 million tons of textile municipal solid waste was generated in 2018, the figure is believed to have risen as the average European discards around 11kg of textiles per year. The letter highlights the need for a more circular and sustainable approach that increases the market for Europe to stay competitive without losing focus on both environmental and social aspects in the textiles sector.

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So what are the demands presented by the eleven ministers?

The joint letter is clear on its demands and several areas of concern in the textile industry are touched upon. In the letter, three main areas of concern are addressed. Firstly the design, product requirements, and hazardous substances of textiles. The eleven countries demand new actions be put in place as large amounts of textiles that are produced in the EU are unfit and unrepairable. This suggests the need to foster innovation and to utilize available funds to stimulate research and investments in non-toxic alternatives and high-level recycling technology. As mentioned above the letter wants the European Union to focus on the whole textile value chain, demanding that a large focus should be put on the entire textile life cycle and that production and use of chemicals, materials, and products should be harm-free, safe, and sustainable from the early stage of the design phase.

The EU countries demand to see a closed-loop. The letter focuses on the area of fast fashion and how overconsumption has led to significant and unsustainable environmental impacts. Therefore, countries demand more research be done in the area to have clear EU targets on the collection, reuse, and textile-to-textile recycling, to create a new market for these products. 

The eleven countries’ third area of demand is transparency and consumer information. The joint letter highlights that transparency needs to be improved and greenwashing must be avoided. They believe consumers have the right to know the environmental and social impacts of the purchases that they make. They stress the importance of awareness-raising measures among consumers, including the production, use, and disposal phase. The ministers would like to see the strategy to be aligned with the Green Claims initiative.

The demands laid out by the eleven countries are encouraging. To see countries join together for a sustainable future shows great prosperity ahead. The circular approach throughout the demands shows commitment to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. As circular economy represents a framework for change, this is a progressive shift to a sustainable future. Using circularity is an engine for new opportunities not only in the textile industry but also across other industries. 

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References:

The Kingdom of Netherlands, 2021. Joint Letter. [Online] https://www.permanentrepresentations.nl/documents/publications/2021/10/6/reach-up-joint-paper-on-textiles

European Commission, 2021. EU strategy for sustainable textiles. Brussels. [Online] https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12822-EU-strategy-for-sustainable-textiles_en

Cbi.eu. 2021. The European market potential for recycled fashion | CBI. [online] Available at: https://www.cbi.eu/market-information/apparel/recycled-fashion/market-potential