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EU local and regional authorities push for circular transition of the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear industry  

The textiles, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) industry has an annual turnover of €195 billion, employs more than 2 million workers and encompasses more than 220 600 businesses in EU

At the plenary session on 30 November, the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted an opinion on the 'EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles', led by rapporteur Luca Menesini (IT/PES), President of the Province of Lucca. The CoR supports the mandatory separation of textile waste by January 2025 and calls for specific targets for textile waste prevention, reuse and recycling in the revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive planned for 2024. The textiles, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) industry doubled production from 2000 to 2015 to reach 10% of global carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.​

The European Committee of the Regions has put forward a series of recommendations to accelerate the sustainable transition of the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) industry. The proposals from EU cities and regions  focus on shifting consumption patterns, boosting circularity design and the role of local authorities in the sector's transition, valuing waste and supporting sustainable production models. The sector has strong links to local areas and cultural heritage and is a major employment and development driver in European regions.

Rapporteur Luca Menesini (IT/PES), President of the Province of Lucca, said: "Up until now, the textile system has been part of a linear economy: tomorrow it will become circular. With this opinion we have highlighted the potential and opportunities that the transition to a circular textile system presents, but above all the role that local and regional authorities can play not only in areas traditionally within our competence - local waste management, green public procurement - but also in promoting new models of consumption and use that aim at sustainability and circularity. In promoting a market of durable and recyclable products, the 'Design for circularity' and Extended Producer Responsibility will play a crucial role."

The CoR urges the European Commission to adopt partnership guidelines between social enterprises and market players to boost circularity as part of the recently adopted EU Action Plan for the Social Economy and to make the Digital Product Passport (DPP) available to all stakeholders and consumers, including information on labour conditions and how to repair and re-use products.

Members strongly advocate for common TCLF sustainability standards - including guarantees on durability, repairability, modularity and recyclability in addition to sustainably and ethically sourced materials, microplastic release levels and post-consumer textile content.

To encourage market demand for circular products and services and boost circular business models, the CoR calls for regulatory incentives – such as VAT reductions and the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle – to motivate renting rather than purchasing, sharing platforms, take-back services, resale and second-hand shops.

The CoR requests the European Commission to prepare new legislation to effectively ban from the EU market products made by forced and child labour – in addition to those not complying with EU environmental criteria and regulations – and calls for the inclusion of the TCLF sector in corporate sustainability legislation.

Local and regional representatives call for additional measures to support producers of natural materials and to foster the creation, upscaling and the interconnection of circular textile clusters in order to boost the competitiveness of Europe's centuries-old producers, mostly SMEs and family businesses, which are increasingly hampered by lower production costs in third countries. Members also propose specific funding for the textile recycling industry to promote the development of an autonomous and profitable sector that can revamp local economies and create new job opportunities.

As data shows that women make up the majority of the low-waged and unskilled TCLF workforce, the Committee also calls for upskilling and reskilling actions, and for measures to improve access for women to management positions. As a complement to the EU's Pact for Skills, the Committee proposes the creation of a specific large-scale skills partnership for the textiles ecosystem.

Members support the EU's initiative on empowering consumers for the green transition which effectively establishes EU rules on product durability and repairability. CoR members also call on the European Commission to establish minimum criteria for all types of environmental claims in the context of the Green Claims initiative.


The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (European Parliament infographics).

According to 2019 data, the sector had an annual turnover of €195 billion that year, employs more than 2 million workers and encompasses more than 220 600 businesses (99% SMEs). With a strong link to local areas and cultural heritage, it is a major driver for employment and development in regions.

The development of the roadmap for the green and digital transition of the entire textile ecosystem is part of the European Industrial Strategy, which delivers on the commitments made under the European Green Deal, as well as the new Circular Economy Action Plan and the European Industrial Strategy.

Green Deal Going Local is the CoR's flagship initiative to place cities and regions at the heart of the EU's climate neutral transition.


David Crous

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