EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles: Shortcomings and promises

On 30 March, the European Commission published its strategy for sustainable and circular textiles. This strategy is part of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the latter being one of the pillars of the European Green Deal. While IFOAM Organics Europe regrets that organic textiles are not mentioned as such, we welcome the forthcoming reopening of the 2011 EU Regulation on Textile Labelling.

Textiles, among the most polluting industries
In the strategy, the Commission identified textiles as one of the most polluting industries, accounting “for the fourth highest negative impact on the environment and on climate change and third highest for water and land use”. In addition to its consumption of fossil energies, the textile sector is based on a dangerous and highly unsustainable growth model, for climate, the environment, and consumers. The textile industry accounts for:

  • 16.1% of the world’s insecticide use,
  • 5.7% of the world’s pesticides use,
  • 8.2 million tonnes of chemicals per year, and
  • 6.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions

The Commission’s strategy seeks to address these issues by supporting stricter eco-design requirements, or actions on green claims, for example.

Can textiles be sustainable?
The current lack of regulation at EU level allows for terms such as eco, green, conscious, or even “organic” to be used to define textiles, regardless of any substantiation.

The term “organic” is not protected for textiles in the same way as it is for food. Consumers are particularly sensitive to these issues of false claims, greenwashing, and labelling. Eurobarometer surveys have shown that 86% of them want labels on clothes with indications about environmental and labour conditions.

Organic, part of the solution, if the term is protected
IFOAM Organics Europe advocates for organic textiles to be recognised as part of the solution at EU level and asks for organic textiles to be mentioned and recognised in upcoming Commission initiatives on textiles. Indeed, organic textiles have important environmental benefits: they use no hazardous pesticides and fertilisers, have less global warming potential, and cause less acidification or eutrophication.

The recognition of an organic label would tackle the issue of false organic claims, by putting the protection of the “organic” term at the same level that it is for food. In short, the recognition of the term “organic textiles” is an important part of the solution to make the textile industry more sustainable and respectful of the environment and consumers.

Have a look at our infographic for a visual representation of the issue and visit our visit our new webpage. Our members can also watch the dedicated session of Let’s discuss organic! on our member extranet.

For more information on organic textiles and IFOAM Organics Europe’s work on this issue, please contact antoine.pauti@organicseurope.bio. IFOAM Organics Europe members can find more information on the member extranet. Contact membership@organicseurope.bio for access rights (issues).

For information about what you can gain from being a member, read our membership page and contact membership@organicseurope.bio.

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