Prosperity via circularity
On June 1, 2023, the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles was adopted, as per which by 2030 all textile products placed on the EU market have to be durable, repairable, and recyclable. According to the European Commission report, the textile sector worldwide is the third highest user of water and land, and fifth highest user of primary raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions. At present, less than 1 per cent of the world’s textiles waste is recycled into new fibres for clothing. The EU Strategy now aims to increase transparency, sustainability, and circularity throughout the textile chain.
Circularity aims to shift from the “take-make-dispose” linear value chain into a circular system, where materials are not lost after use but remain in the economy, circulating as long as possible at the highest possible value, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Though the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex) has supported the EU Textile Strategy, the confederation has apprehension that the European textile industry will be pushed out of the market (due to the new strategy), resulting in increased dependency on foreign supplies. The impact of the new EU Strategy will also be felt outside Europe.
Taking this development seriously, the Government of India, according to a Textiles Ministry official, has initiated work on drafting policies to make India a global hub for sourcing sustainable and circular textiles and garments. As a first step in this direction, the Textiles Ministry is set to start the mapping of the textile waste value chain in India.
While the US has been the top destination for Indian textile exports, EU is the second largest exports market. For the past few years, India’s textile exports to the EU have been constantly fixated between $ 6-8 billion. But, if Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which the two sides are negotiating at present, becomes a reality, then India’s exports to Europe can grow manifold. Hence, India needs to plan for a gradual shift to circular textiles for gaining competitive edge in this well-developed market. The proposed mapping of textiles waste value chain in India is expected to encourage recycling for meeting the demands of the future.
On a positive note, approximately 80 per cent of major players in the Indian textile industry have already implemented various sustainable manufacturing practices, according to a “Sustainability Survey Report 2023” conducted by The Yarn Bazaar and Wazir Advisors. It showed that there is a significant upsurge in cotton recycling, alongside traditional polyester recycling, as the Indian industry’s approach towards circularity evolves. Due to the efforts of some companies the capacity for recycling polyester from bottles and converting it into textile materials in India is expected to reach or surpass 1,600 kilo tonnes per annum by 2030, at a CAGR of 4 per cent, the report pointed out.
With other developed markets, like Japan, too examining the enforcement of circularity in textiles, sustainability has become a critical factor for success in the global market. Hence, India will have to focus on circularity and sustainable products to achieve its $100 billion textile exports goal.