The European Union warned consumers to stop using their clothes like disposable facial tissues and said Wednesday that it plans to counter the polluting use of trendy fast fashion.
New rules proposed by the EU's executive arm call for a mandatory minimum use of recycled fibers by 2030 and would ban the destruction of many unsold products. The European Commission rules also seek to contain the release of microplastics and improve global labor conditions in the garment industry.
“We want sustainable products to become the norm,” commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. “The clothes we wear should last longer than three washes.”
The changes would require a massive shift in an industry that in order to keep costs and prices down, produces items with a short life span in developing nations in Asia and Latin America, often under poor working conditions.
“All textiles should be long lasting, recyclable, made of recycled fibers and free of dangerous substances. The strategy also aims to boost reuse and repair sectors and address textile waste,” Timmermans said.
Almost three-quarters of all clothing and textiles used in EU are imported. In 2019, the 27-nation bloc imported over 80 billion euros ($89.2 billion) in clothes, mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey, according to the European Commission, and the average consumer throws away 11 kilos (over 24 pounds) of textiles a year.
Although targeting clothing made for mass consumption, the EU also wants luxury brands to set the standard for sustainable fashion in an industry where the fleeting and ephemeral is essential to turnover.
“There’s a cultural change taking place,” Timmermans said, added that major fashion houses “are always the first to show the way forward.”
“The designers, the artists - they realize that the world has changed and that we need to revisit the way we design fashion," he said.