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BRUSSELS: A paper by the European Environment Bureau (EEB) on behalf of the Wardrobe Change campaign by 25 NGOs, says the production of 675 million tonnes of raw materials annually to create clothing, footwear and household textiles for EU consumers is unsustainable.

As the European Commission gathers feedback from industry and civil society organisations prior to proposing new measures by the end of the year, the campaign is calling for new policies to stop textile overproduction that averages 1.3 tonnes per EU citizen.

With a demand to end fast fashion, one of the world’s largest industrial polluters, the NGOs want the Commission to rebuff any voluntary agreements by the sector and replace them with regulations based on the following:

Leave the linear business model behind by taxing virgin resource use and making producers responsible for the products they put on the market from cradle-to-grave.

Make sustainable textile products the norm through high minimum design standards, better production processes, traceability, transparency and information disclosure, and ban the destruction of unsold and returned goods.

Drive resource-sufficient textile consumption with rules on what are reliable green products, harmonise labelling, and improve the accuracy of lifetime and repairability of products.

And hold the EU textile industry accountable for its role in the world through a trade reset and strong human rights and environmental due diligence rules.

The group is also calling for urgent regulation of hazardous chemicals and action to end labour rights’ violations in supply chains.

“We can’t ask people to do their part when it comes to sustainability if the multi-billion-dollar companies responsible for promoting such unsustainable consumption habits are not being held to account,” noted EEB policy officer for textiles Emily Macintosh.

“EU laws should focus on reducing the amount of resources used across supply chains and on boosting the market for second-hand and repairable textiles. Fast fashion’s linear and exploitative business model must become a thing of the past,” she continued.

The total amount of clothes produced in the world doubled between 2000 and 2015 and by 2017 EU households were spending €527.9 billion annually. The global fast fashion market is expected to reach US$40 billion a year by 2025.

“Our clothes need to last longer, be easier to mend and reuse, and be made without harmful materials and substances,” explained Valeria Botta, Programme manager at the Environmental Coalition on Standards NGO. “To make sure textiles and their production are truly circular, we need ambitious EU laws that set minimum requirements, push the market towards the best option, and include ambitious binding targets for material and consumption footprints. The EU should grasp the opportunity to finally regulate this industry and inspire others.”

Members of the Wardrobe Change coalition include the EEB, ECOS, RREUSE, Plastic Soup Foundation, Zero, Future in Our Hands, Changing Markets Foundation, HEJ Support, Generation Climate Europe, and Green Liberty.

Additional supporters include the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO), Polish Zero Waste Association, Runder Tisch Reparatur, Zero Waste Europe, Umweltdachverband, FOCISV, Irish Environmental Network, WECF France, Institute Povod Slovenia, ISD Foundation Poland, Na Mysli, OKOBURO, WECF Netherlands, and Wontanara.
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