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The regulation of the environmental impact of fashion: towards the desired circularity

"The consumption of textile products currently represents the fourth largest negative impact on the environment and climate change"

The consumption of textile products currently represents the fourth largest negative impact on the environment and climate change, and the third highest in water and land use from a life cycle perspective on a global scale.

The phenomenon of fast fashion and the tendency to wear clothing for less and less time before discarding it have led to an unsustainable model from the point of view of resource use.

The environmental challenge that we face to reduce emissions and implement more circular production and consumption models, as verified in the recent COP27, has determined that the legislator, both European and national, has been concerned about this environmental problem.

of worry due to the negative impacts on the environment due to the consumption of textiles it is being regulated. Textile waste has begun to be specifically regulated and regulations are coming in relation to the ecodesign of clothing. The transition to more sustainable and circular production and consumption is needed.

The Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils for a circular economy, approved last April, is the first legal text that refers in Spain to textile waste. This law, which transposes the Waste Directive into Spanish law, regulates both the prevention of the production of textile waste and its management.

The Spanish legislator, following the European standard, intends promoting the reuse of textile garments. Also, in line with the concerns in this matter, has prohibited the destruction of surplus, which must be allocated to reuse channels, including donation.

Also, in terms of waste management, it has established the obligation, already contained in the Directive, that on December 31, 2024 textile waste is collected separately. By that date, in addition, the producers of textile products —a concept that includes manufacturers, sellers, importers or electronic commerce platforms— must set up extended producer responsibility systems. This means that these economic agents will be responsible for the textile garments that they put on the market and must take care of them throughout their life cycle, also when they are discarded.

However, to reduce the impact of the sector, it is not only necessary to regulate the prevention and management of textile waste, but it must also also influence the design of these products to make them more sustainable and durable. In this sense, the intention of the European Union is to approve different provisions that will influence the entire production chain.

The Commission has already drawn up a complete roadmap that has been included in the Strategy for the circularity and sustainability of textile products, approved last March. The aim of the EU is that in 2030 all textile products that are marketed in the European Union are durable and recyclable, as well as made largely from recycled fibers, free of dangerous substances and produced respecting social rights and the environment. In addition, cost-effective reuse and repair services are expected to be widely available. All this guaranteeing the profitability of the sector and the affordability of textiles.

The approval of a Regulation on eco-design for sustainable products that establish binding requirements for the whole of the European Union for the ecodesign of clothing and other textiles, in order to increase their durability, repairability, recyclability and the use of recycled materials. In order to reduce the impact on the climate and the environment, and achieve the long-awaited circularity in the sector, design plays a key role.

In turn, the Commission wants reinforce transparency and information mechanisms for consumers to avoid casos of green washing, in which brands are presented as more sustainable than they really are. It is intended to strengthen consumer confidence in ecological claims, introducing a digital passport for textile products or changing the labeling regulations.

Contemporaneously with these measures there is a change in consumption patterns. Sustainability in purchasing decisions is becoming increasingly important, especially among 'Millennial' and Generation Z. Forecasts indicate that second-hand clothing markets, which contribute to reuse, will double in volume by 2026.

The brands, driven by regulatory changes, the modification of consumption patterns or the implementation of ESG criteria in investments, are making significant efforts to promote the circularity and sustainability of their models.

We are facing a deep challenge in which it will be necessary to implant systemic solutions to achieve in the shortest possible time a textile sector that is climate neutral, efficient in the use of energy and resources and that develops around a circular model. There is not much time left if we want to reduce our climate and environmental footprint to mitigate climate change and be more sustainable.

Jose Luis Quintana Cortes.

Partner of Rodríguez Castaño Abogados. Lawyer specialized in administrative law, environment and regulated sectors.

Article originally published in the Blog Fide in the withfideinitial

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