This article summarizes the state of the art regarding textiles in selected European regions. It refers to the Interreg Europe funded CECI – Citizen Involvement in Circular Economy Implementation project and the CECI Circular Textiles thematic study, which was carried out in summer 2021. This is the third article of the series of four articles concerning textiles.
Authors: Marjut Villanen, Katerina Medkova, Johanna Snell & Maarit Virtanen
Textile’s recycling is still underdeveloped. It is calculated that worldwide less than 1 % of textiles are recycled into new textiles. This offers huge opportunities to use the materials and resources that are currently wasted. That will require major changes also in the whole textile industry, which will be supported in the upcoming EU strategy for sustainable textiles. The strategy is expected to be adopted by the end of 2021 and should strengthen the competitive and innovative ability in the textile sector. As a result, the sustainable and circular textiles market in Europe is foreseen to be strengthened. Stress is put also on textile reuse and recycling, eco-design measures, and new business models. Also, consumers are empowered to make sustainable choices. (European Commission 2021a.)
Picture 1. CECI – Circular Textiles was one of the top topics explored in the CECI project, which emphasizes the role of citizens in circular economy. (Rouhiainen 2020, modified be Katerina Medkova)
CECI explores textiles policies
CECI – Citizen Involvement in Circular Economy Implementation is an Interreg Europe funded project that supports regional policy development and focuses on the importance of citizen engagement (Interreg Europe 2021).
In summer 2021, the second CECI thematic study was carried out, in which the CECI project partners delved deeper into the theme of sustainable textiles. The first part of the study related to citizens’ involvement was outlined in the Involving Citizen in Textile Recycling article (Pichlova et al. 2021a). The second part touched on the design phase of textiles as well as purchasing preferences of public authorities (Pichlova et al. 2021b). This third part provides a perspective on related EU and regional policies in the CECI partner countries.
Circular Economy Action Plan sets goals towards circularity
The European Commission adopted a Circular Economy Action Plan in 2015 to speed up Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. The action plan covers 54 concrete actions, aiming to cover the whole life cycle of products. As part of the circular economy package, EU waste directives are revised, and the EU countries implement the Waste Framework Directive into their own legislations. (European Commission 2021b.) A separate collection of textile waste is included in this legislation, being in force at the beginning of 2025. In CECI partner countries, some have already adopted it, and others are taking a bit more time in implementing the textile waste collection.
Cutting the environmental impact of clothing
The European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) was an EU Life funded project aiming to cut the environmental impact of clothing across the supply chain (ECAP 2021). The key points of the ECAP’s Driving Circular Fashion and Textiles report highlight the potential economic and environmental savings that can be achieved by implementing more sustainable actions. Furthermore, partnerships and collaborations between countries are seen as key in achieving a reduction in carbon, water and textile waste. (WRAP 2021.)
CECI partner regions on their way towards circular textiles
According to the EU legislation, it is obligatory to separately collect textile waste from 1.1.2025. The CECI partner countries and regions are in different stages of implementing this obligation. Below the situation of Belgium, France, Spain, Czech Republic and Finland is elaborated.
In Flanders, one of the regions in Belgium, textile waste management is addressed on the regional level. A selective collection of textile waste has been obliged for households and companies through the VLAREMA regulations and the Implementation Plan for Household waste and comparable industrial waste. Flanders has two regional level regulations steering the collection of textile waste from households. Municipalities are obliged to offer a separate collection of textiles in recycling centres, as a door-to-door collection at least four times a year or at dedicated containers/ collection points. (CECI 2021.)
Mechelen’s new Circular Economy Action Plan is underway, and the textile sector is one of the focus areas. OVAM (Flemish Waste Agency) has started round table discussions and calculated local and global impacts of circular strategies of the textile sector to gain input for its new policy. Flanders aims to decrease the material footprint by 30 % by 2030, with the closing of resource loops and dematerialisation. (CECI 2021.)
Textile waste collection in France is managed by a private non-profit company Eco-organismes REP: Refashion. Its role is central in the industry’s ecosystem transforming it towards a circular economy. Waste prevention and end-of-life management of textile and footwear items are part of services provided by Refashion to various stakeholders in the private and public sectors. Under the national law, the Ministry of Environment and Water is obliged to register companies, which market clothes and shoes. Marseille is drafting a regional action plan on textile waste, which should become effective in 2022. (CECI 2021.)
The new waste law of Spain is expected to be approved at the end of 2021. It will include two measures considering textile waste. Municipalities are obliged to collect textile waste separately starting from 1.1.2025. Furthermore, extended producer responsibility (EPR) expands to cover textiles in 2024. (CECI 2021.)
In the Czech Republic, a new waste law came into force from 1.1.2021. The law includes the objectives of circular management for waste, and one of the goals is the mandatory sorting of textiles from 1.1.2025. The overall aim is to recycle 60% of municipal waste by 2030, and 65% by 2035. (CECI 2021.)
The amendment of the Finnish Waste Act took effect in July 2021, with the separate collection of textiles beginning in 2023. In Finland, the ban on landfilling organic waste has been in effect since 2016, so most of the textile waste have been directed to incineration for energy production. (CECI 2021.)
The CECI thematic study and common debate confirm, that many textile waste-related issues still need to be further tackled. Fortunately, supportive tools, which will boost the change towards a sustainable future are available, such as the EU’s Green Deal – a policy initiative overarching the aim of Europe to become climate neutral by 2050. A comprehensive strategy for sustainable textiles will pave the way towards reaching the Europe’s climate goals.
CECI. 2021. CECI Thematic study II survey on Sustainable Textiles. Unpublished.
Interreg Europe. 2021. Project Summary. CECI. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/ceci/
ECAP. 2021. Read ECAP’s Summary Report 2019 – Driving circular fashion and textiles. WRAP. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: http://www.ecap.eu.com/
European Commission. 2021a. Strategy for textiles. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/sustainability/textiles_en
European Commission. 2021b. First circular economy action plan. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/topics/circular-economy/first-circular-economy-action-plan_en
Pichlova, A., Delaunay-Belleville, A., Villanen, M & Medkova, K. 2021a. Involving citizen in textile recycling. LAB Pro. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/involving-citizen-in-textile-recycling/
Pichlova, A., Delaunay-Belleville, A., Villanen, M & Medkova, K. 2021b. Sustainability all the way from design and public procurement into recycling. LAB Pro. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/sustainability-all-the-way-from-design-and-public-procurement-into-recycling/
Rouhiainen, O. 2020. Circular economy blooms through citizens involvement. CECI. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/ceci/news/news-article/11484/the-south-is-moving-the-lines-for-another-economy/
WRAP. 2021. Driving circular fashion and textiles: ECAP summary report. [Cited 22 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://wrap.org.uk/resources/report/driving-circular-fashion-and-textiles-ecap-summary-report
Marjut Villanen works as an RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and is the CECI Project Manager.
Katerina Medkova works as an RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and is the CECI Communication Manager.
Johanna Snell, a CECI project coordinator in the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme.
Maarit Virtanen, a Climate Specialist at the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme.
Illustration: https://www.pexels.com/fi-fi/kuva/kaupunki-katu-naiset-nuori-5709659/ (Pexels Licence)
Reference to this article
Villanen, M., Medkova, K., Snell, J. & Virtanen, M. 2021. Focusing on steps towards sustainable textiles. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/focusing-on-steps-towards-sustainable-textiles/