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EU Ecolabelling for Textiles to be Amended, While New Decision Published for Floorings

In recent weeks, there have been a number of important developments in the area of EU Ecolabelling, the voluntary scheme allowing traders to label their products as having a reduced environmental impact. These developments include a proposal to amend the criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products and a recently adopted Decision amending the criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for wooden floor coverings.

On 2 February 2017, the Commission sent a proposal to amend Decision 2014/350/EU establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products to the Member States. The proposal, if adopted, would not introduce any radical changes to the Decision. Rather, it would help bring a number of useful clarifications to the text and ensure a greater degree of consistency between various EU measures potentially affecting textiles.

There are a large number of amendments to the Decision and its Annex contained in the proposal; the most important among them being the extension of the validity of the Ecolabel requirements for textile products. The criteria currently in force are due to expire in June 2018, however, the proposal foresees that the criteria (as amended) will be valid for a further 78 months from the date of adoption of the Decision.

Other changes include an amendment to the definition of the kinds of textile fibres to which the Decision applies, so as to include the potential for labelling intermediate textile products within the Ecolabel scheme’s scope. 

Moreover, the wording in relation to the exceptions that apply to recycled fibres of organic cotton fibres has been amended for clarity. In particular, the amendment provides an explanation of how the percentage of cotton in a product should be calculated for the purposes of ensuring compliance with criterion 1(a) or 1(b) of the Annex.

Criterion 1(a) concerns the “organic production standard for cotton”, while criterion 1(b) concerns cotton production according to Integrated Pest Management (PMT) principles. According to this explanation, the recycled cotton fibre shall be deducted from the required minimum percentages in all cases, except in those of products consisting of clothing for babies under the age of three.

Furthermore, amendments to the wording used in the organic cotton, IPM cotton and pesticides restriction requirements for textiles have been proposed in order to harmonise them with the wording used for the Ecolabelling requirements for footwear and furniture product groups. Revisions regarding the use of GMO free cotton are also introduced.

In the proposal, it appears that the wording of criterion 13(b) setting down a prohibition on the existence of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) in textile products has been amended for clarity. The change makes it clearer that the substance must fulfil both requirements contained in criterion 13(b), as opposed to either one of the two listed therein, in order to meet the requirements for prohibition.

Criterion 14 on the substitution of hazardous substances used in dyeing, printing and finishing is also amended to make it clear that “functional substances incorporated into synthetic fibres and man-made cellulose fibres during their manufacturing” that are hazardous may also be subject to restrictions under the criteria listed in table 5 of the Annex.

It is also proposed to modify the Annex’s entry on restrictions on the use of water, dirt and stain repellents, under criterion 14(b)(iv), so as to harmonise it with similar provisions used in the footwear and furniture product groups, taking as a reference the revised criteria in Decision 2016/1332 for furniture and Decision 2016/1329 for footwear.

Amendments are also foreseen for section (7) of Appendix 1 to the Annex of Decision 2014/350/EU. This appendix provides a list of restrictions of substances that apply to all production stages of the final product. The proposed amendments bring detergents into the scope of the restriction, while at the same time narrowing the coverage of the restriction for non-ionic and cationic detergents and surfactants to those that are classified as hazardous to the aquatic environment under Regulation 1272/2008 (the CLP Regulation).

Other proposed changes include those relating to the criteria for corporate responsibility, the standards for colour fastness of textiles, a clarification on the assessment and verification under criterion 3 on wool and other keratin fibres and a correction to the test reference for anaerobic biodegradability.

There are several other amendments contained in the proposal. Hong Kong traders of textiles and textile products hoping to avail themselves of the Ecolabel scheme in future are encouraged to examine the proposed amendments carefully. It is likely that most, if not all, of the amendments will be adopted, following approval from the Member States.

In relation to the second development on floor coverings, on 2 February 2017, Commission Decision 2017/176 on establishing EU Ecolabel criteria for wood-, cork- and bamboo-based floor coverings was published in the EU’s Official Journal. This Decision revises and repeals the existing ecological criteria for wooden floor coverings set out in Commission Decision 2010/18/EC.

The revised EU Ecolabel criteria aim at promoting the use of materials produced in a more sustainable way, based in particular on a life cycle analysis.

The product group covered by the new Decision comprises indoor floor coverings, including wood floorings, laminate floorings, cork floor coverings and bamboo floorings that are made, for more than 80% by weight of the final product, from wood, wood-based, cork, cork-based, bamboo and bamboo-based materials or fibres, not containing synthetic fibres in any of the composing layers.

One of the most notable changes brought by the new criteria is the introduction of the requirement that any virgin wood, cork, bamboo and rattan found in the finished products originates from certified, sustainably-managed forests.

In addition, the new criteria impose tighter restrictions on the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the product to combat air pollution generated by floor coverings. There are also tougher restrictions on other harmful chemicals and the imposition of a ban on the use of flame retardants.

Another new addition is a set of measures aiming to ensure low energy consumption during manufacturing under Criterion 5 "Energy consumption in the production process.”

Hong Kong traders of wooden floor coverings should examine the new Decision carefully and establish what measures need to be taken to ensure their products comply with the new Ecolabel criteria.

Click here to view the Commission’s proposed Decision establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products.

Click here to view Decision 2017/176 on establishing EU Ecolabel criteria for wood-, cork- and bamboo-based floor coverings.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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