Yesterday, the Portuguese Association of Textiles and Clothing (ATP) showcased at the Press Club Brussels Europe its project ‘Sustainable Fashion from Portugal’, in the framework of the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, as well as the war in Ukraine.
1. EU pushes for “circular economy” model and sustainable production of clothes
On 30 March, the European Commission presented a new comprehensive package of the European Green Deal including initiatives that promote circular economy and products having an extended life cycle, as well as easily reparable, replaceable and recyclable parts.
The Commission’s 2030 Vision for Textiles is that all products placed on the EU market should be durable, repairable and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances, produced in respect of social rights and the environment so that consumers benefit longer from high quality affordable textiles.
Empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices is an important part of the efforts required to create a more sustainable and circular ecosystem.Marie-Hélène Pradines, head of Tourism and Textiles Unit at DG Grow
In this context, the Commission will review the textiles labelling regulation and will consider compulsory sustainability and circularity elements on the label. The Regulation foresees the creation of an EU Digital Product Passport to provide comprehensive information on product composition along the value chain. This can offer sustainability relevant information on products and their components such as reusability and recyclability, availability of repair services or parts, and presence of harmful chemicals.
Most importantly, the Commission is making an active effort to be as inclusive as possible in the creation of a “transition pathway for a resilient, sustainable and digital textile eco-system”. Currently, there is an online survey for companies in the industry to fill, on the basis of which workshops will be organised in the summer and autumn. This way, the actors who are actually impacted by the Regulation have a role in its co-creation.
The textile and clothing industry is facing an unprecedented situation with the rising prices of energy and gas. Many companies are considering shutting down production because of energy costs,Nuno Melo, Member of the European Parliament
2. The impact of the war in Ukraine in the textile industry
“At the European Parliament we welcome the European Commission’s 2030 Vision for the textile industry, however, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: the massive impact of the war in Ukraine. The textile and clothing industry is facing an unprecedented situation with the rising prices of energy and gas. Many companies are considering shutting down production because of energy costs,” warned Nuno Melo, Member of the European Parliament.
EURATEX, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation, stressed that “Companies need access to energy at reasonable prices, may those be subsidies, removing environmental levies or VAT from bills and price caps. The transfer to renewable and cleaner sources of energy needs to speed up to guarantee less dependency. But it is a long process that cannot be achieved in the forthcoming months. That’s why Europe should urgently look at the available options to control such market shocks”.
3. “Made in Portugal” represents 5% of the total EU textile and clothing industry
The textile and clothing industry is one of the most important sectors for Portugal, accounting for 18% of all employment in the manufacturing industries and 9% of the country’s exports. Furthermore, it ranks 5th on the European market in terms of turnover, the 7.8 billion euros it generates representing 5% of the total EU textile and clothing industry. “Portugal exports textiles to over 180 markets and the label “Made in Portugal” has a positive reputation worldwide”, underlined Mário Machado, ATP President.
The Portuguese industry’s vision and strategies for 2030 are completely aligned with the Commission’s recommendations, having sustainability as one of the most important development areas.Mário Machado, ATP President
For the next few years, the Portuguese textile companies’ priorities are the careful selection of raw materials, the intelligent use of resources, investing in more efficient and innovative production methods, as well as cleaner energy, minimizing waste and increasing recycling, strengthening circular economy and improving transparency, traceability and lifecycle assessment.
To wash clothes at home, it takes about 20L of water per kg of clothing. Today, to make simple white T-shirts, it only takes 12L of water per kg of clothing. So we have managed in the industry to use less water producing clothes than it takes to wash them at home.Mário Machado, ATP President
To foster this development, “we are increasing the visibility of the Portuguese textile and clothing industry as a sustainable leader, reinforcing its promotion in third markets, mainly in those where sustainability and circular economy are already a priority and increasing export market shares as well as conquering new markets”, he concluded.
4. JF Almeida: the success story
Paulo Lopes, from JF Almeida (JFA), one of Portugal’s best examples in the textile industry, exemplified how a more sustainable manufacturing process is attainable.
“JFA has been making a constant commitment to reduce its ecological footprint and present its clients increasingly sustainable products. We recycle and reuse 40% of the water that enters the dyeing plant. The water reduction translates into more than 6,5 Olympic swimming pools. Moreover, process optimization and machinery upgrades resulted in a 12% reduction in water consumption in 2021”, explained Lopes.
Furthermore, since 2018 they have been developing a product called 360-yarn. A type of fabric made only with waste from their internal manufacturing process which could allow JFA to produce a towel that is 100% waste free.
For packaging the yarn, the company uses recycled plastic bags, which are the result of identified waste, recovered within JFA. They are also making document dematerialization efforts and have an annual action plan of reducing paper consumption by 30%.
They have also invested in, on the one hand, more energy efficient processes and, on the other hand, greener energy sources leading to a decrease of 2358 tonnes in CO2 emissions between 2016 and 2021 and almost 500,000 euros saved in energy costs.