Dress and the city: a comparative study of clothing and textiles environmental policy in five European cities

Irene Maldini, Samira Iran, Kirsi Laitala, Gunnar Vittersø, Iva Jestratijevic, Milena Amaral, Katia Vladimirova

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European clothing consumption has increased dramatically in recent decades, leading to a current average of 26 kg of textiles annually purchased per capita (EEA, 2019). While garments (and most of clothing’s environmental impacts) are produced in other parts of the world, European municipalities face a problem of increasing volumes of textile waste. Moreover, the revised waste directive of 2018 specifies that European Union countries will be obliged to collect textiles separately by 2025. This study investigates how these phenomena are affecting city-level policy and strategy, including but not limited to textile waste management. It builds on a comparative analysis of official documents informed by interviews with policy makers and waste management authorities in five European cities.
The research points out that, in these cities, clothing environmental policy and other public initiatives are at varied levels of development. The paper identifies three kinds of measures, namely (a) improving separate collection, (b) waste prevention, and (c) consumption reduction. Reducing the share of textiles disposed of in general household waste (and therefore increasing separate collection) has been a central aim in cities where textiles fall under local waste regulation. The waste directive mentioned above makes separate collection of all textiles compulsory for EU members, leading to revisions in some cities’ collection systems. Some municipalities have gone one step further in preventing these textiles from reaching waste streams by supporting local initiatives for repair and reuse. The most advanced and recent approach is aiming at reductions in new clothing demand through citizen campaigns and monitoring the effect of repair and reuse actions in consumption levels.
The comparative analysis leads to recommendations for future policy and strategy including developing the three approaches mentioned above simultaneously, further exploring measures for consumption reduction, and the integration of more concrete targets and monitoring plans, so that the most effective paths in social and environmental terms can be identified.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 20th European roundtable on sustainable consumption and production
EditorsHans Schnitzer, Sibylle Braunegg
Place of PublicationGraz
PublisherVerlag der Technischen Universität Graz
ISBN (Print)9783851258424
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Event20th European roundtable on sustainable consumption and production - Graz, Austria
Duration: 8 Sept 202110 Sept 2021


Conference20th European roundtable on sustainable consumption and production


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