New EU design rules take aim at fashion industry's eco-impact

The European Parliament has reached a provisional agreement on proposed new rules requiring products, including clothing and footwear, to last longer, and be easier to repair, upgrade and recycle

By Creatives Unite Newsroom
December 08, 2023

The members of the European Parliament have come to a preliminary agreement on proposed regulations aimed at promoting sustainable practices in the design of consumer goods that will fundamentally change the fashion industry

The proposed rules would require products, specifically clothing and footwear, to meet higher standards of durability, repairability, and recyclability, including a ban on destroying unsold garments once implemented, to encourage reuse/recycling over disposal.

The "ecodesign regulation" will establish requirements for all consumer products ranging from dishwashers, TVs, windows, and phone chargers, to textiles and fashion. The goal is not only to have energy and resource-efficient goods but also to make them durable, reliable, reusable, upgradeable, easy to repair, and recyclable.

Companies will have to meet various benchmarks for their products to be approved for sale in EU member states. The European Union is drafting at least 16 pieces of legislation and plans to allow requirements to be added for new product types as technology advances. 

The Commission plans to regulate misleading "eco-labels" and ban the destruction of unsold textiles. Additionally, a "Digital Product Passport" will catalogue sustainability information on products to help guide consumer and business purchasing decisions.

The passport will also aid governments in enforcing the ecodesign standards. Experts say the rules will accelerate Europe's transition to a circular economy model that minimizes waste.

The fashion industry under pressure

The new rules are expected to be a challenge for fast fashion brands, as they will require companies to either collect an amount of textile waste or pay a fee to local authorities for waste collection work, with the amount gradually increasing every few years.

The clothing and footwear sectors are highlighted as priority areas that the new design standards will directly impact. Once finalized, designers and manufacturers will be legally bound to meet these requirements if they wish to sell their products in the lucrative EU market.

The ban on destroying unsold clothing and footwear will apply two years after the law enters into force, with various exemptions for small or medium-sized companies that can go up to six years.

The European Union's goal is that, by 2030, Europe's biggest fast fashion firms, such as Inditex and H&M, will have adopted more sustainable practices