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EU Sets New Criteria for Green Textile Products and Services

In response to global sustainability efforts, the European Union is introducing new Greener Public Procurement (GPP) guidelines for textile products and services.

On June 7, the Commission published a new voluntary EU GPP criteria for textile products and services, an area that affects fire fighter, hospital staff, military and police uniforms. An important change to the existing criteria, which was established in 2012, is the addition of textiles services, a market that’s gaining momentum worldwide and could reduce environmental impacts. The new criteria could help the textile industry minimize its carbon footprint and production costs.

The new criteria for textiles focuses on how a product’s lifecycle impacts the planet. Textile products are divided into five categories: fiber sourcing, chemical restrictions, durability and lifespan extension, energy conservation during use and design for reuse and recycling.

Cotton production, which is heavily associated with the use of pesticides, is the main driver for ecotoxity, along with the crop’s irrigation process. Scouring wool is another source of ecotoxity, since it could release grease and ectoparasiticides into wastewater. Synthetic fiber production does conserve the most energy but is the most difficult man-made fiber to recycle. Cellulose fiber production, which is often dubbed a more sustainable alternative, could potentially come from hazardous forestry practices. What’s more, the finishing stages of textile production and consumer use often involve chemicals and could be hazardous to human health.

Key environmental aspects were also included in the new criteria. To remedy these issues, GPP included strategic eco-friendly approaches for industry members interested in developing more sustainable textile products and services.

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Natural fibers cultivated for textiles, including cotton, often use hazardous fertilizers and pesticides which could destroy marine life. The EU encourages industry members to purchase textiles made from more sustainable fibers.

Substances used during the processing of final textile products also pose as a threat to aquatic environments. Purchasing textiles that contain recycled materials or contain less environmentally harmful substances in their production process could be a solution for less pollution.

The use of biotic and abiotic resources from forestry, natural gas and petroleum in the synthetic textile manufacturing process could be hazardous to both humans and wildlife. Negative side effects of these resources include acidification, greenhouse gas emissions and smog, which further pollute the planet. To remedy this, the EU urges the industry to purchase textiles that require less energy for drying, purchase color-fast fabrics that don’t shrink during use and have longer-lasting functional coatings and contract services that reduce energy needed to wash, dry and iron textiles.

Early textile product failure could also contribute to pollution, since unwanted or unused textiles are often thrown away in landfills or burned. The EU suggests that companies contract services that extend textiles’ lifetimes and contract services that support the reuse and recycling of textiles.