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The European Union is looking to discourage fast fashion culture in its member countries.
Leaders in the union gathered on Wednesday, March 30, to discuss newly proposed rules that would require mandatory recycled fiber minimums, ban the destruction of unsold merchandise and lessen the release of microplastics into the environment, according to the Associated Press.
“All textiles should be long-lasting, recyclable, made of recycled fibers and free of dangerous substances,” said Frans Timmermans, the union’s vice president of the European Commission.
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He went on to say that the proposed rules are being evaluated to encourage sustainability among manufacturers and consumers.
“The clothes we wear should last longer than three washes,” Timmermans said.
The proposed rules are packaged in the commission’s EU Green Deal. If passed, the rules would set up a “sustainable and circular textile” action plan that would mandate recycled fiber quotas, eco-friendly designs and digital product passports for repair and reuse tracking.
These proposed rules would aim to get clothing companies in the EU on board by 2030, according to the commission’s press release on the topic.
Statistics compiled by the commission’s EU Data Crunch team found that 9,000 liters of water are used to produce the textiles a European consumer typically buys in a single year.
The group’s researchers also found that synthetic textiles make up to 35% of the microplastics in the world’s oceans.
More than 65% of textiles in the EU are imported from foreign countries. Though, consumer data reportedly shows that 74% of Europeans want to support second-hand clothing and 77% want clothing made from recycled materials.
The Oxford Dictionary defines fast fashion as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.”
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Fast fashion gained popularity in the late 1990s with the rise of trend-focused apparel chains like H&M, Zara and Topshop, according to an industry analysis published by Bard College.
Attitudes about disposable clothing have shifted in recent years as consumers and brands acknowledge the effects fast fashion and textile waste have had on climate change.
“European consumers rightly expect more environment-friendly and longer-lasting products,” said Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, in a statement. “More sustainability and resource efficiency also means more resilience when a crisis disrupts our industrial supply chains.”
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He continued, “By harnessing the potential of the Single Market, making the most of digital tools and improving market surveillance, we will maximize opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. Greater resource and energy efficiency in the construction and textile sectors in particular will generate highly skilled jobs across Europe.”