Guide to Sustainability and the Circular Economy for the textile sector

by Beatriz Domenech

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

14th July 2020

A new mentality is being forged among textile manufacturers: aware of the environmental impact of the sector, concern for sustainability is on the rise.
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An initial study carried out by AITEX’s new sustainability and circular economy technical unit has shown that the private sector is increasingly aware of the need to change from linear economic models (manufacture – use – waste) to circular economic models that aim to keep the value of products and materials as high as possible, for as long as possible, while generating the least environmental impact. However, an alarming lack of knowledge of all the concepts that this new business model implies has been detected.

For example, recycling, which is what springs to mind when talking about the Circular Economy, is the last process that should be applied. Other stages, such as design for recycling are necessary beforehand, as not all products are recyclable. The new European Directive ((EU) 2018/851) obliges Member States to start the selective collection of textile waste before January 1st 2025, establishing the objectives of reuse and recycling of these waste materials. This will have an impact on the entire textile value chain as manufacturers will have to start designing and preparing their products for mechanical and chemical recycling.

Likewise, self-declared environmental claims in the market have increased, leading to confusion among producers and consumers in the face of the growth of products that are called “green or sustainable”. In the face of “greenwashing” or misleading advertising, it is important to be aware of the existing voluntary eco-labels and certifications regarding sustainability and traceability, as they are an important transparency tool that makes it easier for consumers to find information on the environmental impact of products when making purchasing decisions.

For this reason, AITEX is drawing up a Sustainability and Circular Economy Guide specifically for the textile sector in which the most relevant aspects to be taken into account by companies will be dealt with in separate chapters.

The aim of the Guide is to reduce confusion among companies in the sector on environmental sustainability, to stimulate the introduction of improvements in textile processes and products, and to encourage the integration of environmental sustainability into the strategy of the company itself by facilitating the transition to circular business models.

Each chapter will be written to take into account the current state of the sector, and both the content and the actions proposed will focus on a level of real application by textile companies.

circular economy

The specific objective of each chapter is summarised below:

I. Environmental concepts.

To harmonise the use of the most frequent and relevant environmental statements for the textile industry (e.g. biodegradability, recyclability, life cycle, etc.)

II. Materials.

To objectively analyse the most significant advantages and disadvantages of the materials most frequently used in the sector.

III. Certifications and labelling.

To identify all those certifications applicable in the textile sector according to the international sustainability regulations and standards, and their conditions in the labelling of products.

IV. Business models and success stories.

Highlighting successful initiatives of transition to circular business models as an example to be applied in companies of the textile industry.

V. Ecodesign.

To identify the keys of design to ensure durability, reuse, maintenance, and recyclability of textile products.

VI. Processes and technologies.

To analyse the different technologies for the recycling of textile waste, taking into account the level of development, the type of materials that can be processed and current real availability.

VII. Regulations.

To provide an analysis of the regulations at a national and European level on environmental sustainability that apply to companies in the textile sector.

VIII. Resources of interest.

A compilation of material to work on the implementation of improvements in the field of sustainability from within the company.[/vc_message]

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