What are current activities of OEKO-TEX® in the development of a Circular Economy?

What is OEKO-TEX® contributing to the development of a Circular Economy? 
OEKO-TEX® is known for having its finger on the pulse of the industry and constantly adapting to new industry conditions. In this way, we have already covered some aspects of the Circular Economy recent years.

Circular Economy is a comprehensive guiding model for sustainable development that is highly discussed and encouraged by governments, NGOs and other stakeholders. It presents an alternative to the current “end-of-life” concept. Its core is minimizing resource consumption and eliminating pollution and waste through superior design of materials, products, systems and business models. It is focused on maintaining the highest value of resources for as long as possible and closing loops through recycling.

Currently, OEKO-TEX® covers circularity criteria on the product and production levels, as well as aspects of transparency.

One of the main product requirements within a Circular Economy is the usage of sustainable fibres – ideally from either renewable or recycled source. The MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label focuses on the production of materials and product tested for harmful substances under the best possible conditions. Since different fibre groups are best suited depending on the application, we do not ban specific fibres. Instead, we require proof that manufacturing took place under responsible environmental conditions.

We will, however, keep an eye on further regulatory developments since certain stakeholders prefer the prohibition of certain fibres. The EU will release a report on sustainable fibres end of 2022. The findings will be considered in future OEKO-TEX® developments.

A Circular Economy demands high product quality requirements to ensure physical durability and longevity. Basic quality requirements including the colorfastness to water, to acidic and alkaline perspiration, to dry rubbing, to saliva and perspiration as well as odour testingare already covered by the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification and therefore also by MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®.

Products should be free from hazardous substances to ensure end-consumer healthy and minimize environmental pollution. This criterion is widely covered by the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification where materials are tested for harmful substances and also by the STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification where harmful substances are restricted from intentional use. Both certifications are the basis for MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®. ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX® certified chemicals prevent hazardous substances from entering products and factories.

SteP by OEKO-TEX® - and therefore MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® - ensures that production takes place in respect of social rights and the environment. The certification verifies environmental protection and encourages continuous improvement. Facilities are assessed for their energy efficiency and use of renewable energies. They are obliged to minimize production waste and reuse or recycle textile and chemical waste. Air and water emissions ideally are reduced to zero. Facilities are encouraged to recycle substances in wastewater and air. Additionally, STeP considers the use of recycled packaging material as well as its recycling and reuse.

Two STeP by OEKO-TEX® certified facilities already operating zero liquid discharge production lines. Certified companies can use the STeP reports and scoring to target improvements or transparently share their progress.

Transparency and traceability are important elements of a circular economy.  With the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® product label, anyone can trace products through unique a product ID. End-consumers can see information about the production facilities, the product, the production stages and the production countries.

OEKO-TEX® focusses on knowledge exchange. We are engaged in two multi-stakeholder initiatives on enabling more transparency and traceability in textile and leather supply chains through Blockchain technology.

Building up a circular economy is one of the big topics of the coming years. OEKO-TEX® is committed to this topic and will continue our activities in market research, knowledge exchange and product development.