Fashion: the threat of ‘fast fashion’ to sustainability, politics steps in.

The EU Calls for Stricter Measures Against Excessive Textile Product Consumption

The marriage of fashion and sustainability is increasingly threatened by ‘fast fashion,’ the increasingly prevalent practice of purchasing disposable clothing items. These items are used for a short time and then often end up as waste material. The debate on the need to curb ‘fast fashion’ is ongoing.

As reported by Ansa Europa, the European Union has adopted stricter measures to combat the excessive production and consumption of textile products, which should be designed to last longer and be easier to reuse, repair, and recycle. In other words, they should be produced in a circular, sustainable, and socially equitable manner.

Eurodeputies, with 600 votes in favor, 17 against, and 16 abstentions, have requested this by adopting recommendations for the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textile products. This represents a clear and written call to put an end to ‘fast fashion,’ with a clear directive to the Commission to launch an initiative to prevent and minimize the release of microplastics and microfibers into the environment “without further delay.”

Furthermore, clear rules are needed to curb greenwashing by manufacturers, for example, through ongoing legislative work related to consumer empowerment in the green transition and the regulation of green claims.

Low prices, but huge environmental costs

The European Commission has presented a strategy to counter fast fashion within the framework of the circular economy action plan, introducing new design requirements and transparency obligations for companies in the sector. Directive 2018/851 on waste management also introduced the obligation to implement separate collection of textile products by 2025. This is because in recent years, the practice of ‘fast fashion’ has gained more ground, offering low prices at huge environmental costs.

The textile industry particularly impacts water resources. It’s challenging to quantify the exact water demand of the textile industry, but it is estimated that producing a single cotton T-shirt requires about 2,700 liters of water, equivalent to what a person would drink over 2.5 years.

On average, over the past two years, the textile sector has used 400 square meters of land, 9 cubic meters of water, and 391 kilograms of raw materials per EU citizen. The textile industry also significantly contributes to water pollution, accounting for an estimated 20% of drinking water pollution worldwide and the release of 35% of microplastics.

The same goes for greenhouse gas emissions; it is estimated that the clothing industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. In the EU alone, each citizen generated 270 kilograms of CO2 emissions over the past two years. Waste is also a significant concern, with an estimated 26 kilograms of products consumed per EU citizen each year, of which 11 kilograms are mostly sent to landfills or incinerated.

Useful links – Ansa Europa link: