BRUSSELS – A new coalition of international organisations from the wool, cotton and other natural fibres sectors has called for a critical review into the European Union’s proposed new green labelling for clothing and footwear. They are concerned the present Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method which the EU plans to use to measure the environmental impacts of a garment would provide incomplete information for a consumer-facing label.
Cotton Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, and the International Wool Textile Organisation have come together to sound the alarm that the PEF in its present guise risks missing a huge opportunity. The global trade bodies for the alpaca and silk sectors are also part of the coalition.
Together they are sounding the alarm that the PEF in its present guise risks missing a huge opportunity. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of the EU to push for sustainability labelling on clothing, the current PEF fails to account for the benefits of using renewable and biodegradable natural fibres – while also ignoring the adverse impacts of microplastic pollution and the full environmental footprint of fossil fuel fibres.
The coalition have now launched the Make the Label Count campaign. The campaign warns that, at a time when many industries are recognising the impacts of and moving away from fossil fuels, “the impacts of the formation of crude oil — a base material for producing synthetic fibres — are not accounted for in the PEF methodology.”
The European Commission has identified textiles as a priority sector to meet the EU’s goals as outlined in the European Green Deal and the New Industrial Strategy for Europe.
One of the members of Make the Label Count is the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO). “A credible sustainability label has the potential to make the industry greener and empower EU consumers to make informed choices,” said Dalena White, secretary, IWTO, and co-spokesperson for Make the Label Count campaign, along with Livia Firth of Eco-Age.
“We are very excited that the textile industry will be regulated in the near future and that proposed legislation will assist concerned consumers to make responsible decisions.
“EU policy makers have a crucial role to play in ensuring that labelling is supported by a system that presents a level playing field for all fibres by considering the full impacts of each garment’s life cycle.”
IWTO and its fellow Make the Label Count members, are concerned that, as it stands today, sustainability labelling does not account for crucial environmental impacts that sit at the forefront of EU policy. For instance, the adverse effects of microplastic pollution, a known side effect of wearing and washing synthetic clothing, is absent from the scoring.
While all garments shed microfibres through laundering and daily wear, only synthetic garments made from fossil fuels discharge microplastic fibres. Microplastic pollution contaminates both terrestrial and marine environments and has entered food chain. Scientific studies have shown that one typical 5-kilogram wash of fossil fuel-based garments can release as many as 6 million microplastic fibres
Dalena White added: “True sustainability means products are made from renewable raw materials. The circular attributes of natural fibres, such as renewability at the start-of-life, high levels of reuse and recycling during life, and biodegradability at end-of-life are not counted or only minimally counted in the current system of scoring.”
The Make the Label Count Campaign brings together an international coalition of organisations in an appeal for credibility in sustainability labelling for clothing.