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Hundreds of EU Textile Plants Face New Environmental Requirements

Roughly 300 textile plants across the European Union will have to contend with new legal requirements under the bloc’s industrial emissions directive to whittle their environmental impact based on best available techniques, or BATs.

The legal norms will give existing installations four years to “adapt,” the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, wrote last week. New facilities, on the other hand, will be required to comply immediately.

The move is part of the EU’s broader zero pollution ambition—itself a facet of the European Green Deal to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent—to reduce air, water and soil pollution to levels harmless to health and the environment. The new norms, together with the EU chemicals strategy for sustainability, are designed to increase the protection of human health and the environment while boosting industry competitiveness.

The new norms will also affect some 3,000 chemical plants that will face new requirements for the management and treatment of waste gas bloc-wide.

In the case of textiles, the legislative changes will have the biggest influence on wet processing, which includes treatments such as bleaching, dyeing or finishing to imbue materials with properties such as water repellency. The new norms will fall under the EU’s strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, which aspires to create a “greener, more competitive” textiles sector, the Joint Research Centre said.

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There will be a special emphasis, the organization noted, on air and water emissions. The new norms will target more than 20 air and water pollutants including formaldehyde, total volatile organic compounds and dust, as well as ammonia for air and metals for water.

They will also home in on environmental issues relevant to the circular economy, such as energy efficiency and resource efficiency by way of water consumption, chemicals consumption and waste generation.

Overall, the industrial emissions directive is meant to promote more sustainable industrial production through the substitution of chemicals that are hazardous, harmful or have a high environmental impact by introducing an approach buttressed by a chemical management system, the Joint Research Centre said.

The process for compiling and reviewing BAT reference documents is spearheaded by the Joint Research Centre’s European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau. The BAT conclusions for the textiles industry, which include fabric production, finishing, lamination, fiber spinning, wool fulling, washing and rinsing, were adopted in Brussels on Dec. 9. They do not cover the production of man-made fibers and yarns or the unhairing of hides and skins, which would fall under conclusions relating to polymer production and the tanning of hides and skins, respectively.