The future of the European textile industry is now

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
The future of the European textile industry is now

In March 2022, the European Commission published the EU Strategy for Sustainable & Circular Textiles; it followed the European Industrial Strategy where 14 priority industrial ecosystems – among which textiles – were identified to achieve the “twin transition to a green and digital economy, make EU industry more competitive globally, and enhance Europe’s open strategic autonomy.”

But what is the EU Textile Strategy and what concrete impact will it have on the European textile industry and its citizens?

With over 160.000 companies employing 1.3 million people, the European textile industry is a vital part of European society. Textiles have a profound impact on the local economy and on local communities across all EU regions by generating jobs and creating business opportunities; also, European textiles and fashion is an integral part of European culture with deep root in cultural heritage while setting the creative trends all over the world.

Composed mainly of SMEs, the European textile industry generated a turnover of €169 billion in 2022 – an increase of 13% compared to 2021. But, according to the European Union, textile is the fourth highest industry to have an impact on the environment and climate change, it is one of the top 3 industries for water and land use, and among the top 5 in terms of raw materials use and greenhouse gas emission.

The EU Strategy for Sustainable & Circular Textiles aims at mitigating the impact of the textile industry on the environment while enhancing its competitiveness and resilience through a series of new and game-changing regulations – such as eco-design (ESPR), Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Due Diligence, the creation of a digital product passport, the analysis of the impact of microplastics and harmful chemicals to find solutions, as well as regulating so-called “green claims” and ecolabel to ensure such a claim is accurately presented to consumers.

The EU Textile Strategy also aims to tackle the issue of over-production and over-consumption by promoting high quality durable, repairable and recyclable textiles and fibres; indeed, fast fashion is out of fashion.

A key element for the future of European textiles is the establishment of compulsory textile waste collection by 2025, sparking the need for a new business model and supply chain, as well as a Europe-wide level plain field, concrete investments in innovation and skills leading towards a tangible green and realistic digital transition.

The European Commission, through partners and agencies, is supporting the development and implementation of projects to create a new circular economy, where textiles and clothes can and are reused, repaired and recycled.

After clothes have been used and then mended many times, citizens will be able to recycle them in the same way as they now recycle plastic, fuelling the textile industry with recycled materials and triggering a new circular economy. Currently, many pilot projects are being implemented exploring possibilities for new products and services, which will soon become everyday reality.

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