The EU is cracking down on textiles for the better.

The textile industry has come a long way in terms of sustainability. Mills are realising the true benefits of adopting environmentally friendly practices, and organisations are starting to hold the mills accountable for their actions. One such organisation is the European Commission, and their involvement makes sense seeing as though countries within the European Union are the second leading exporter of textiles (as of 2018). Just last year, the commission released the “European Green Deal”, which contains some fairly strict guidelines for how mills and companies should implement and prioritise energy efficiency, as well as the circular economy methodology. The creation of the Green Deal has left many wondering just how much the textile and apparel industries will be affected, and how the policies will be enforced by the commission.

So, What is the European Green Deal?

The European Green Deal is a collection of measures and policies presented by the European Commission to help Europe’s citizens and businesses cut emissions, invest in environmental research, and preserve the environment overall. According to the commission’s website, “The Green Deal can be a new EU growth strategy, and the commitment of all participants is crucial to its success.” In terms of the industries it enacts policies, there are several:

     Energy - Decarbonising and prioritising energy efficiency.

     Manufacturing and Production - Producing new goods that utilize the circular model.

     Construction - Building designs should be in line with the circular economy, and energy use must be regulated closely.

     Transportation - Emissions from transport must be reduced, and freight/cargo should be transported via rail and/or water.

     Biodiversity - Encourage imports that do not create deforestation, as well as replenishment of forests.

     Pollution - Reduce pollution from large industrial installations, and develop sustainable alternatives to various chemicals.

The Green Deal and Textiles

The European Commission released a consumer agenda back in 2012 that outlines a framework for regulating consumer goods, and aligns policy to change.

Here are some of the agenda’s key objectives. Specifically, in relation to apparel and textiles:

     Supply factory workers with a living wage.

     Prioritise transparency and traceability throughout supply chains.

     Encourage the development of processing technologies for the recycling of raw materials.

     Enforce Reach, the Regulation, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals.

     Enforce EU EcoLabel criteria for textiles.

Concerns About the Green Deal

According to a document released by the European Commission in December, the Circular Economy Action Plan will encourage the textile industry to avoid or minimise waste by limiting the amount of packaging and substantiate and “green claims” made, also known as greenwashing. While this all sounds promising, there is a question of how these changes can be implemented. Consumers must be as engaged and involved as companies in order for this to really work. So, brands will need to get creative (perhaps, offering incentives to those who participate in recycling programmes). The other challenge facing the industry is making this transition cost-effective. The question is: Can all of these changes be made while keeping costs down? It can be done, it will just take some careful planning and strategy.

Green-Deal-Friendly Textiles

The following fibres meet several of the Green Deal’s criteria, whether they utilise recycled materials in the production or use less water.

Repreve

Repreve is a new fibre made from recycled plastic bottles. The fabric is moisture-wicking, has adaptive warming and cooling properties, and is very durable. The production of Repreve emits fewer greenhouse gases and conserves energy and water in the process.

Supima

One of the main messages of the Green Deal is, “If you can’t completely reduce or eliminate resources, try to conserve them.” While the sustainability of standard cotton might be questionable, the sustainable nature of Supima cotton is not. The fields that Supima cotton is grown on are laser-leveled to maximise water use, and crops are rotated regularly to optimise soil health. And, one more thing: Supima is traceable!

Refibra

Tencel is an environmentally responsible textile that is extremely versatile. Lenzing, the company behind Tencel, has developed a new variety of the fiber that utilises Refibra technology. Refibra is a method of textile recycling that involves recycling cotton scraps and wood pulp.

The European Commission has made a goal to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and the Green Deal is the first step towards making this a reality. Something to keep in mind, however, is that the success of the Green Deal is dependent on the cooperation of the entire planet. Several countries export materials and other goods to Europe to aid in production, so they must be just as committed to the mission. The EU us a strong voice in the global community, and we should all lean in to discover how we can do our part.

This article has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff and is re-published with permission from synzenbe.com