The fashion bandwagon is dreadfully crowded— EU Commission released new standards for longer product life.
The discourse on fashion's environmental issues remains unabated. Far from over, the latest release by the European Commission adds a new sustainability standpoint to the mix. A snapshot of frameworks and standards to strengthen circular textiles serves as the report's foundation.
Textiles and the environment: The role of design in Europe's circular economy highlights longer durability and reusability of clothing and revised restrictions on the elimination process of excess inventory. The European Union, for ecological reasons, is in support of product longevity and detraction from today's copious consumption of disposable fast fashion.
The proposed reforms are part of the EU's stronger drive to make a broader range of services more sustainable– electronics, buildings, food packaging, etc. Ioana Popescu, a Senior Programme Manager at ECOS, says the Commission "seeks to put a halt on fast fashion by introducing rules on textiles to be used in the European market." The rules apply to all production phases— designing, repairing, and reusing. It also expresses that concerning brands failing to meet the standards will be liable.
The point of prolonging the lifespan of clothing has exploded in popularity among consumers in recent years. Fueled by sustainability reasons, enhanced social focus on climate change, microplastic pollution, and, no doubt, the eco-devastations of the fashion industry. About 47% of fashion value chain fibers end up as waste, cascaded as commercial rags, incinerated, or landfilled. Meanwhile, less than 1% of textile waste is recycled into new clothing fibers. The massive downcycling is but further bad news for the environment. At the moment, the foremost investment to mitigate the water, waste, and carbon footprints of textiles is durability. Essentially, clothes with a longer life cycle will result in fewer replacements while decreasing the landfill crowd and consumption of resources during the production processes. "We want sustainable products to become the norm, the clothes we wear should last longer than three washes, "says Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
Expanding circularity in the textiles system by stretching the lifespan of a textile, further than the first buyer, is on the Commission's major agenda. Strategic business models to capitalize on salvage value by repairing, recycling, and reusing discarded clothing. As part of the European Green Deal proposals, soon, only long-lasting and recyclable textiles manufactured fairly will traffic the European market.
"By 2030, textiles placed on the EU market should be long-lived and recyclable, made to a large extent of recycled fibers," according to the EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius.
There is still a considerable distance between transformation and the fashion industry mired in conventional linear business practices to create bulk cheap, fast fashion. Despite numerous sustainability efforts, any headway is stifled by ever-increasing consumption. According to the report, the amount of textile consumption is estimated at 15 kg per person per year, equating to an overall consumption of 6.6 million tonnes of textile products in Europe alone.
In an era otherwise defined by disposable fashion, taking the quantum leap toward circular business models and ethics-ushered consumption can make all the difference. The longevity of a clothing item will be measured in decades rather than use or wash counts and will be utilized by multiple consumers, further extending the product's active life.
"The eco-modulated extended producer responsibility systems could be effective in creating an economic advantage for recycled fibers and material reuse and would incentivize manufacturers in applying design for recyclability into their design as it would be coupled with a bonus/malus system to reflect circular performances such as durability, repairability, recyclability, and material use," the report concludes, echoing Köhler et al 2021.
While the cleaner fashion revolution has begun in Europe, what is happening on the other side of town? Lets take a glimpse at the New York's Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act—
The New Bill On The Block: The Fashion Act
Going through a period of the spotlight on climate change and other issues (the ESG in particular), New York policymakers are bringing environmental performance to the runway. The goal is to transform the fashion landscape. Upon passing, New York's Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (Fashion Act) will be unprecedented, in a class by itself, the first to impose sustainability-related responsibilities on the nation's largest fashion houses. The act will eclipse all fashion companies marketing their products in New York with more than a $100 million profit margin. Under the act, they would be required to trace at least 50% of their supply chains and release information about their GHGs impacts, chemical use, and water footprint. While there are no explicit pointers about the 50% mapping, it is geared mostly towards the most vulnerable social and environmental factors.
Despite fashion's wrongs of releasing 10% of global carbon emissions and being the second-largest consumer of water resources, the industry is unbelievably unmonitored.
New York's Fashion Act aims to address this issue- brands are required to submit the overall production material volume to bring to light the total impact (often overlooked) of the industry. Fashion brands would also need to improve their environmental performance using Science-Based Targets– for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A coalition of nonprofits promulgated the Assembly Bill A8352 and Senate Bill S7428— the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the New Standard Institute, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, and designer Stella McCartney, endorsed the bill on January 7, 2021. Several senators have also signed on to the bill, along with the backing of organizations.
The Fashion Act will be a watershed moment in the industry's efforts to reduce its eco-social impact— not just the New Yorkers, but the world is eager to witness how the act will transform the fashion arena down the road once passed.