New ‘Wardrobe Change’ campaign calls for radical textile industry transformation

By Emily Macintosh, EEB

More clothing is being produced, consumed, and thrown away than ever before, putting immense pressure on our planet and the industry’s 60 million-strong global workforce.

A new campaign, ‘Wardrobe Change,’ launched today by the European Environmental Bureau and 24 civil society groups from across the EU is calling for EU leaders to take urgent action to rein in the sector.

“The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters and is rife with exploitation. Our new Wardrobe Change campaign is calling for a radical transformation to how clothes are made, sold, worn – and reworn,” explained Patrizia Heidegger, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the EEB.

Heidegger continued: “This year, EU leaders have a chance to back an ambitious Textile Strategy based on fairness and sustainability. It’s time to move fashion away from the pursuit of ever-more economic growth which is incompatible with stopping further environmental and climate breakdown and reducing global inequalities.”

Ever shorter turnaround times mean that, globally, clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014, with more than 150 billion garments now produced annually, and 73% of all textiles ending up in landfill or incineration.

In December, new research from the European Environment Agency highlighted that after food, housing and transport, textiles are the fourth largest cause of environmental pressure. Textiles also cause the second highest pressure on land use and are the fifth largest contributor to carbon emissions from household consumption.

EU environment ministers have called on the European Commission to come up with a strategy to move the sector away from unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and the sector was flagged as a priority in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s flagship European Green Deal.

The Commission is also expected to put forward proposals for textiles in its New Circular Economy Action Plan, expected to be published on 4 March.

Stephane Arditi, Policy Manager for the Circular Economy at the EEB, said: “Today’s fashion system makes overconsumption far too easy which is generating huge levels of waste. But we can’t recycle our way out of the problem – products need to be used for longer and waste prevented in the first place. Just as they took action on single-use plastics, governments need to urgently take action to make options such as repairing, renting, sharing, and swapping more accessible. It’s essential to ensure better information is available about what our clothes are made of and develop design requirements for toxic-free materials that can be used again and again.”

The UN states that the textile sector is responsible for between 8 and 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and it estimates that, by 2050, fashion could be responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions.

Arditi added: “Climate action is not just about decarbonising the energy we use, it’s also about changing how we produce and consume in the first place by rethinking how we make, use, and reuse products – and that includes textiles.”

In 2019, Sweden made headlines by cancelling fashion week, and from Buy Nothing Day to Second Hand September to Extinction Rebellion, people all over the world stood up for slower fashion.

But the year tragically ended with a fire in a New Delhi garment factory killing 40 workers.

Patrizia Heidegger said: “Those on the frontline of the textile industry’s waste and pollution are the millions of unrepresented workers who make the clothes sold around the world. Given that 193 governments have committed to achieving responsible consumption and production globally as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all companies must be required to take steps to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses and environmental destruction along their supply chains.”

In 2020, the organisations behind the Wardrobe Change campaign will carry out a host of awareness raising and advocacy activities across the EU. Information about the Wardrobe Change campaign activities will be updated here.

For more information, please contact emily.macintosh@eeb.org and follow the hashtag #WardrobeChange

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