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Minimum ecodesign standards key for textiles circularity

By Patrick Scott 26 Apr 2021

Current certification schemes for sustainable textiles are not fit for purpose, according to a new research that is calling for the introduction of minimum ecodesign requirements similar to those that exist for electronics.

The research analysed labels and certification schemes such as the EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan, and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), among others, and concluded they are not robust enough to make the fashion industry sustainable.

Instead, introducing EU-wide ecodesign requirements would help fill this gap, according to experts at ECOS (Environmental Coalition on Standards).

Its report, ‘Durable, repairable and mainstream – how ecodesign can make our textiles circular,’ is based on a background study carried out by the consulting firm Ramboll.

ECOS suggests the introduction of legal minimum ecodesign requirements for textiles, supported by robust technical standards, as the best solution to transform the current ‘buy more, use less, throw away’ linear fashion model into a circular one.

Requirements should focus on improving material efficiency (durability, reusability, repairability, recyclability), and exploring ways to drive a more environmentally responsible design of textile products – both through policy requirements and standardisation recommendations.

ECOS urges the European Commission to apply the principles of ecodesign to textile products, following the model of electricals and electronics. Regulated through the existing Ecodesign Directive, its scope could be expanded as part of the planned Sustainable Products Policy Initiative. 

“Legislation can and should stimulate sustainable design for durability, reusability, repairability and recyclability in textiles too,” the report says.

Textiles green labels overlook reuse and repair 

ECOS analysis of current certification schemes and reports shows that minimum requirements in schemes for sustainable textiles ‘overlook’ reuse and repair aspects.

Specifically, the analysis shows that current labels and schemes lack effectiveness mainly because they: 

  • Lack requirements for minimum desired lifespan of products;
  • Lack definitions of what ‘high-quality fabrics’ are;
  • Contain only a limited reference to recycled content or natural fibre content of fabrics; 
  • Marginally address chemical additives and material composition;
  • Include no methods to address the problem of microplastics shedding of synthetic fibres .

The results point to a need for urgent action by decision-makers to cut the environmental impacts of the textile industry, as the fast fashion’s footprint continues growing. 

“Ecodesign requirements for electronics are a true EU success story when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions,” says Valeria Botta, ECOS programme manager and author of the report.

“They save consumers money, and encourage circularity. Applying the same principles to textile products is a must to make our clothes longer lasting and slash the tremendous environmental impact this sector has globally. Without powerful minimum requirements, our planet risks becoming the ultimate fashion victim’.”