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BRUSSELS – The wool industry is encouraging natural fibres proponents to make their voices heard to ensure new EU regulations on textiles accurately and fairly represent fibres such wool, cotton and silk. The public now have less than a month to comment on the EU’s strategy for sustainable textiles. Another consultation, on the EU’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) has just opened. The IWTO is concerned that in its current form, PEF could “cause bias and favour textiles made from fossil fuel-based fibres.

The EU’s plans include apparel labelling, which will make environmental impacts transparent so that consumers can – in theory – make informed decisions. However, the EU’s labelling will be underwritten by the PEF for apparel and footwear, and IWTO is not alone in having concerns about the PEF methodology in its current form.

Submissions to the EU can be made until 4 August 2021 CEST here.

“Whilst PEF has good intent, the methodology is immature and does not yet provide the full picture about textile product sustainability,” said the IWTO in a statement.

“In the absence of substantial public and industry engagement, the European Commission is likely to conclude the current methodology as acceptable. The proposed labelling could reduce demand for natural fibres.”

Among the IWTO’s concerns are that:

  • Positive impacts such as renewability and biodegradability should be rewarded as the EU moves to circularity
  • Wool and other natural fibres are sustainable because they can be regrown year after year, but this is not true of fossil fuel-based fibres. This renewability needs to be recognized.
  • At end-of-life, natural fibres biodegrade returning their nutrients to the soil for use again but potential labelling would not capture this inherently circular attribute. By contrast synthetics do not biodegrade – they clog up the world’s landfills indefinitely or are incinerated, releasing fossil carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
  • Labelling needs to include important negatives of synthetics, such as the release of microplastic fibres to the air and water and their take-up by the food chain.

The EU strategy for sustainable textiles aims to help the EU shift to a climate-neutral, circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable and recyclable. It aims to ensure that the textile industry recovers from the COVID-19 crisis in a sustainable and competitive way by applying circular economy principles to production, products, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials. it will support investment, research, and innovation.

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