Europe can create a circular economy in textiles

08 May 2024 16:56

Brussels - Zero Waste Europe has released a plan to promote circular economies in the European fashion sector. The newest chapter in the plan, released in May, explained how to reduce the use of toxins in textiles while boosting the reuse and recycling of materials.

Europe’s textile industry has been releasing harmful chemicals, carbon-based synthetic fibers, and microplastics into the environment while moving too slowly to repair, reuse, and recycle materials in circular economies, according to the conservation organization Zero Waste Europe.

Now the Belgium-based group has released the second chapter of its Vision for Textile series that plans how to create a circular, non-textile industry on the continent and supply chains that stretch worldwide. 

The chapter issued in May outlines barriers to circularity today, provides solutions, and makes recommendations for new European Policies to foster more sustainable textiles that reduce the extraction of virgin materials that emit pollution as well as greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

The chapter’s executive summary details how EU leaders should ban harmful chemicals in textiles, certify that raw materials are bio-based, introduce economic incentives for reusing materials, toughen regulations of textile waste exports to foster circularity, and require minimum recycled materials in products. 

Zero Waste Europe researchers also explained the challenges to circularity in the European textile sector. Local economies lack the capacity to recycle textiles at scale. Products aren’t designed for recycling. Companies have not invested in closed-loop recycling that uptakes recycled materials. 

The chapter also notes that second-hand textiles exported from Europe also inflict major environmental impacts on importing nations in the developing world.

The first chapter in the series detailed how the fashion sector would increase its share of world pollution without significant reforms. ce/jd

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