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EU Is Moving to Tackle Fast Fashion Industries

by Olivia Lai Europe Apr 1st 20223 mins
EU Is Moving to Tackle Fast Fashion Industries

Fast fashion industries will be required to disclose how much unsold clothing they send to landfills and include a minimum amount of recyclable materials in goods.

The European Commission aims to put an end to fast fashion by 2030 in an announcement introducing a mandatory minimum use of recycled fibres and banning companies from sending any unsold clothing and textile products to landfills.

Under the newly expansion of the EU’s existing eco-design rules, which set down energy efficiency standards for consumer goods such as toasters and washing machines, companies operating in the bloc will be required to include a certain amount of recycled content in their goods, or curb the use of materials that make them hard to recycle.

The EU also plans to force large fashion companies to disclose how much unsold stock they send to landfills – dumped clothing in landfills increases the risk of microplastics leaking into the environment – as well as improve global labour conditions in the garment industry.

“The products we use every day need to last,” said Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission. “If products break we should be able to fix them.”

“We want sustainable products to become the norm,” he continued. “The clothes we wear should last longer than three washes and should also be recyclable.” The EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius added, “By 2030, textiles placed on the EU market should be long-lived and recyclable, made to a large extent of recycled fibres.”

Fast fashion has become increasingly more prevalent across the globe; fast fashion industries’ business model relies on the cheap and speedy production of low quality clothing, which gets pumped quickly through stores in order to meet the latest trends.  This includes popular European high street brands like Zara, H&M and Top Shop. These clothing items are not made to last. The average European throws away 11kg of clothes, shoes and other fabric goods every year, yet when discarded in landfills, textiles take hundreds of years to decompose.

In order to keep costs and prices of the goods low, most mass clothing production takes place in developing nations in Asia and Latin America, often under poor working conditions. In 2019, the EU imported over €80 billion in clothes, mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey. Overall, nearly three-quarters of clothing and household textiles consumed in the EU are imported from elsewhere.

Fast fashion production is incredibly energy intensive as well. Textile is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, after food, housing and transport, while the fast fashion industry accounts for nearly 20% of global wastewater, or around 93 billion cubic metres from textile dyeing, according to the UN Environment Programme

While the UN has introduced a voluntary mission statement called the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, where fashion and textile companies commit to achieving net zero emission by 2050 and address their roles in climate change, the EU proposal is one of the biggest multilateral rules to regulate and legislate fast fashion problems. 

Forming  part of the EU’s “circular economy” plan in the Green Deal, the new eco-design rules will likely see mattresses and carpets be the first textile goods to be regulated. 

You might also like: New York Introduces First Fashion Sustainability Act in the US


About the Author

Olivia Lai

Olivia is a journalist and editor based in Hong Kong with previous experience covering politics, art and culture. She is passionate about wildlife and ocean conservation, with a keen interest in climate diplomacy. She’s also a graduate of University of Edinburgh in International Relations with a Master’s degree from The University of Hong Kong in Journalism. Olivia was the former Managing Editor at Earth.Org.

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