EU proposes new rules to discourage disposable fast fashion

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The European Union plans to counter the polluting use of fast fashion and is warning consumers to stop using their clothes like disposable facial tissues

March 30, 2022, 5: 05 PM

3 min read

BRUSSELS — The European Union warned consumers to stop using their clothes like throwaway items and said Wednesday that it plans to counter the polluting use of mass-market 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 aim to limit the release of microplastics as well as improve the conditions for workers in the garment industry.

” We want sustainable products to be the norm,” said Frans Timmermans, vice president of the commission. “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 durable, recyclable, made from recycled fibers, and free of harmful substances. Timmermans stated that the strategy also aims at boosting reuse and repair and addressing textile waste. Nearly three quarters of all clothing and textiles used within the 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.

Fast fashion has a strong association in Europe with the high-street — areas where clothes-hunters shop for mass-market retailers like Zara, Primark, and H&M. Although the EU is focusing on clothing for this market, it also wants luxury brands set the standard for sustainable fashion within an industry where turnover is crucially short-term and ephemeral.

“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.

Sustainability is a new frontier in the luxury industry. Upcycling and other methods to reduce the carbon footprint have been mainstays for some of the most famous brands on the runways of London and Paris, such as Stella McCartney, which belongs to the Kering group, and more recently Chloe under sustainability-conscious designer Gabriela Hearst.


Thomas Adamson contributed from Paris.


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