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EU cracks down on fast fashion with new sustainability rules

2024.06.17 23:25:59 Jimin Youn

[Photo of women’s clothing, Photo Credit: Pexels]

In a significant move towards sustainability, the European Union (EU) has announced new rules to tackle fast fashion and reduce waste, including a ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear.

The legislation, which was first proposed by the European Commission last year, aims to extend the lifespan of products and make them easier to repair and recycle.


The new laws are part of a larger effort to provide a framework for sustainable "Ecodesign" for almost all goods marketed in the European Union.


This framework will replace the 2009 Ecodesign directive, which was limited to energy-related products, by encompassing a wider array of goods, excluding motor vehicles and items impacting national security.


Among other sustainability-related issues, the revised standards will include product durability, reusability, upgradeability, reparability, energy and resource efficiency, and environmental effect.


Big businesses will have to submit an annual report under the new regulations detailing how much of their production is unsold and why it is thrown away.


This is expected to encourage firms to adopt more sustainable practices.


Smaller businesses are completely excluded from the restriction, while medium-sized businesses will be protected for six years.


"This is a critical step in ending the harmful 'take, make, dispose' model that damages our planet, health, and economy," said MEP Alessandra Moretti, who played a crucial role in driving the legislation through the European Parliament.


"The new rules will ensure products are designed in a way that benefits everyone and protects the environment.", she added.


One of the main components of the new rules is the creation of a "Digital Product Passport."


This passport will give customers comprehensive information on a product's environmental sustainability; it will probably be implemented via a QR code.


The goal of this innovation is to improve market transparency by assisting customers in making informed purchases.


After the European Parliament gave its approval in April, the European Council's declaration represents the last significant step towards the implementation of these regulations.


The extensive use of the Ecodesign concept demonstrates the EU's strong commitment to advancing environmental sustainability in almost every product category.


Within the fashion business, opinions on the restriction on discarding unsold fabrics and footwear have been divided.


Although it has been praised as a long-overdue move towards sustainability, there are worries about how it will affect supply chains and brand operations.


The fashion industry has traditionally disposed of unsold merchandise to prevent overabundance of cheap items on the market, a practice that is currently under scrutiny.


"This ban won't solve overproduction by itself, but it's a significant move that will force brands to be more responsible and less wasteful," said Philippa Grogan, a sustainability consultant at Eco-Age.


"It has been a dirty secret of the fashion industry for too long."


The European Fashion Alliance (EFA) has demanded that the terms "unsold goods" and "destruction" be defined more precisely.


The EFA is lobbying for remanufacturing and upcycling processes, which may provide a second life to unsold items while stimulating innovation.


Questions about how the prohibition would be implemented and details about what will happen to unsold items still remain.


It's unclear if these goods will be exported, utilized again as deadstock, or disposed of in another way.


There have also been proposals for this information to be provided only to regulatory agencies due to the potential reputational hazards associated with requiring major corporations to reveal the quantity of unsold items they trash.


Additionally, the new rules offer a chance for supply chain management innovation.


The creator of the sustainable fashion consultancy The Bear Scouts, Dio Kurazawa, emphasized that firms may use on-demand and pre-order production processes.


“This is a chance for brands to leverage AI for better forecasting and intentional production," he added.


“Technology can help reduce the volume of unsold goods from the start."


The EU will be concentrating on assuring compliance and keeping an eye on the environmental effect as it proceeds to implement these ambitious standards.


When paired with the larger Ecodesign framework, the prohibition of discarding unsold merchandise signifies a substantial change towards a more transparent and sustainable fashion sector.


It establishes a precedent that may spur comparable initiatives throughout the world, thereby changing the fashion industry's perspective on sustainability.

Jimin Youn / Grade 11
Seoul Academy Upper Division