Wednesday, February 28

Europe seeks to end ‘greenwashing’

Green label. / Photolia

Brussels closely monitors the “vague” use of labels such as ‘eco’ or ‘green’ on products marketed in the Union to achieve its sustainable objectives

Jose A. Gonzalez

Green packaging, «eco», «green energy». These are some of the formulas most used by businesses and companies to ‘sell’ sustainability to their clients. A practice to which, more and more, ‘ecological’ or, presumably, recyclable labels are added.

The European Commission has decided to deal with these practices. “We are talking about environmental statements that are too generic or vague, which suggest an excellent environmental behavior of a product without this being the case or without it being possible to verify it,” denounces Ioannis Virvilis, spokesman for the Representation of the European Commission in Spain. “Such unfair practices will be prohibited,” he adds.

The proposal of the European Commission encourages brands to properly inform the consumer if the durability of their products is going to be of a limited nature.

According to the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) there are currently more than 450 eco-labels that cause “citizens to begin to lose confidence.”

Brussels has decided to update its community regulations on consumer protection, to strengthen circularity and make sustainable values ​​the pillars of each of the articles that are marketed and designed for the Union market. “There is a lack of transparency and credibility of sustainability labels,” the Commission denounces. According to the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) there are currently more than 450 eco-labels that cause “citizens to begin to lose confidence.”

Sellers must also specify whether or not the product they sell to the customer is accompanied by a guarantee and how long it will be valid for. The European Parliament and the different member states of the EU must now discuss the Commission’s proposal to agree on a common line. “Since these are Directives, once approved by these two institutions, the standards will have to be incorporated into the national legislation of each country of the Union within a period of time,” explains Virvilis.

“If we do not start consuming more sustainably, we will not be able to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal, it is as simple as that,” advances Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice.

War against microplastics

Two years later, the Commission has decided to update its recommendations to get closer to its objectives of the Community Green Deal. “We want to be the first climate-neutral continent between now and 2050, and in this sense it is necessary for consumers to consume and for companies to produce more sustainably than now,” says Virvilis.

The update also establishes that “by 2030, textile products sold on the Union market will be durable and recyclable”, indicates the text of the Commission that will now have to go through the debate table of the European Council and, later, by the European Parliament.

Every year, an average of eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the sea, an amount similar to emptying a garbage truck full of plastic every minute. A third of that total comes through textiles.

Since the 1950s, washing clothes has caused the release of at least 5.6 million tons of synthetic microfibers into the sea, half in the last decade alone. “It is estimated that around 60% of the fibers used in clothing are synthetic, predominantly polyester,” denounces the European Commission in its strategy. “And this amount is increasing,” he adds.

A problem that Brussels is aware of, but that it will address in the second half of the year and “the measures will focus on manufacturing processes, pre-washing in industrial manufacturing plants, labeling and the promotion of innovative materials,” they advance.

Since the 1950s, washing clothes has caused the release of at least 5.6 million tons of synthetic microfibers into the sea

However, the textile sector does receive an important notice. According to the European Environment Agency, the use of clothing in Europe has, on average, the fourth largest impact on the environment and climate, second only to food, housing and transport.

The world production of this sector almost doubled between 2000 and 2015 and the consumption of clothing and footwear is expected to increase by 63% by 2030. Thus, it would go from the current 62 million tons to 102 million tons in 2030. Approximately, according to data from the Commission, each year 11 kilos per person are discarded and “every second, somewhere in the world, a truckload of textiles is deposited in landfills or is incinerated,” they reveal.

For this reason, the European Commission wants to put limits on their production and establish a second life for these fabrics. The textiles will have to “be free of dangerous substances and must be produced with respect to social rights and the environment,” reports the Commission.

Spring-summer and autumn-winter are already old fashion. This old model of collections in the textile world has given way to continuous campaigns with sales and continuous samples to increase the figures of a sector that is still suffering from the SARS-CoV-2 attack.

Despite the drop in sales, the factories continue to produce shirts, t-shirts, skirts, blouses and sweaters. Unsustainable model that ends up with clothes from the “wardrobe to the landfill”.

The proposal prohibits the destruction of returned or unsold garments and, in addition, seeks to favor the change of industrial uses to reduce the discharge into nature of microplastics included in fabrics with synthetic components.

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