As the European Union is going to launch the ‘Eco-design for Sustainable Products Regulation’ by the end of 2022, Bangladesh has to prepare to deal with the regulatory changes related to sustainability and circularity as its second-largest apparel supplier.
New rules proposed by the EU’s executive arm call for mandatory minimum use of recycled fibers by 2030, which would make producers take responsibility for their products’ waste. The European Commission rules would also make the businesses follow the Ecodesign method to design apparel to be long-lasting, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and free of hazardous substances. It would seek to contain the release of microplastics from apparel washing to the environment and to improve global labor conditions in the garment industries as well.
The 27-country bloc eyes on pursuing global progress towards more sustainable and circular textiles in international fora (G7, G20), in the context of the Global Alliance for Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE) and the United Nations Environmental Assembly. It is also devising strategies to facilitate the development of green skills to substantiate the circular business model for the apparel industries. To make clear information about the products’ supply and value chain available to the consumers, the regulation is going to make the Digital Product Passport compulsory for the products.
Under this regulation, the EU wants to reduce the environmental impact of their apparel by making brands of the EU countries, as well as global retail giants making turnover from the countries to adopt circular business models, reduce the number of collections per year, take responsibility of the apparel waste, and act to minimize their carbon and environmental footprints.
Ultimately, all these are going to impose a crackdown on the fast-fashion industry. In this context, we should be aware to find ways to meet the changing demands of our largest apparel market. Instead of making cheap and short-lasting products to meet the fast-fashion trend, we have to eye on gaining the capability to develop durable products that can be worn for a long period. Technologies should be available to make products with good color fastness and tear strength. The availability of good qualities of trims and accessories like buttons, and zippers need to be ensured gradually to make durable products.
Industries should gradually adopt technologies to recycle fibers from textile wastes as this is going to be an area of special focus to be competitive in the market by meeting the requirement of a minimum recycled fiber use. As the brands will have to take responsibility to deal with the apparel wastes, the recycling facility is going to create a big opportunity for the industries to build a strong relationship with the buyers by reducing their burden.
If we become compatible to deal with the textile wastes by recycling, reusing, and repairing, we can take the used apparel back following our export to the EU countries to upcycle the apparel wastes. Initiatives should also be taken to phase out hazardous chemicals from the production processes.
Factories should focus on green chemistry solutions to be competitive in the EU market. The less hazardous chemicals a facility uses to manufacture a certain product, the more competitive it will be in the markets. The EU is concerned about the presence of around 60 hazardous substances in textile products which are considered carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic to reproduction.
Phase out these chemicals as much as possible is mandatory to be competitive in the market. Various digital platforms like ZDHC, Bluesign, BHive, etc. could be helpful tools to prove the chemical transparency of the manufactured products.
Focus on developing competency to play a leading role in manufacturing durable products from natural fibers to alleviate the microplastic problem caused by synthetic fibers should be given. Manufacturing facilities should adopt relevant technologies to prove excellence in this field.
Circular business models may include:
The Digital Product Passport is going to carry out all the environmental footprint information of a product to the consumers to make them choose the terms of energy, water, GHG, chemicals, etc. So, the manufacturing facilities have to find out technologies to and develop processes to manufacture textiles and apparel with less water, less energy, emitting less GHG and VOCs, and using less hazardous chemicals to be the first choice of the customers.
Industry-academia consortium should be formed to conduct innovative projects to develop textile recycling technologies and reskilling our workforce in the field of textile waste collection, sorting, reuse, preparation for reuse and recycling, recycling, and repairing the products. Circularity principles such as product-as-service models, take-back services, second-hand collections, and repair services could be adopted by SMEs and startups and the govt. should incentivize such adoptions.
The fashion trend is changing worldwide considering the environmental footprint of the apparel we wear. Like as EU many other nations are also concerned about the environmental issues the world is facing now. People are suffering the issues like climate change, air pollution, water pollution, water shortage, and diseases from hazardous chemicals all over the world. All these are going to change the fashion industry. To sustain our competitiveness in the fashion market, we must transform our business models and manufacturing facilities in line with the needs of sustainable fashion trends rather than only focusing the fast-fashion trends.