Clothes, footwear and household textiles are responsible for water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and landfill. Find out more in our infographic.

Fast fashion – the constant provision of new styles at very low prices – has led to a big increase in the quantity of clothes produced and thrown away.

To tackle the impact on the environment, the EU wants to speed up the move towards a circular economy.

In March 2020, the European Commission adopted a new circular economy action plan, which includes an EU strategy for textiles, which aims to stimulate innovation and boost reuse within the sector. Parliament is set to vote on an own-initiative report on the circular economy action plan in early 2021.

Circularity principles need to be implemented throughout all stages of a value chain to make the circular economy a success. From design to production, all the way to the consumer.

Jan Huitema (Renew Europe, the Netherlands)
Lead MEP on the circular economy action plan
infographic with facts and figures about the environmental impact of textiles   
Infographic with facts and figures about the environmental impact of textiles

Water use

It takes a lot of water to produce textile, plus land to grow cotton and other fibres. It is estimated that the global textile and clothing industry used 79 billion cubic metres of water in 2015, while the needs of the EU’s whole economy amounted to 266 billion cubic metres in 2017. To make a single cotton t-shirt, 2,700 litres of fresh water are required according to estimates, enough to meet one person’s drinking needs for 2.5 years.

Infographic with facts and figures about the environmental impact of textiles   
Infographic with facts and figures about the environmental impact of textiles

Water pollution

Textile production is estimated to be responsible for about 20% of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products.

Washing synthetics releases an estimated 0.5 million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean a year.

Laundering synthetic clothes accounts for 35% of primary microplastics released into the environment. A single laundry load of polyester clothes can discharge 700,000 microplastic fibres that can end up in the food chain.

Infographic with facts and figures about the environmental impact of textiles   

Greenhouse gas emissions

It is estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

According to the European Environment Agency, textile purchases in the EU in 2017 generated about 654 kg of CO2 emissions per person.

Textile waste in landfills

The way people get rid of unwanted clothes has also changed, with items being thrown away rather than donated.

Since 1996, the amount of clothes bought in the EU per person has increased by 40% following a sharp fall in prices, which has reduced the life span of clothing. Europeans use nearly 26 kilos of textiles and discard about 11 kilos of them every year. Used clothes can be exported outside the EU, but are mostly (87%) incinerated or landfilled.

Globally less than 1% of clothes are recycled as clothing, partly due to inadequate technology.

Tackling textile waste in the EU

The new strategy aims to address fast fashion and provide guidelines to achieve high levels of separate collection of textile waste.

Under the waste directive approved by the Parliament in 2018, EU countries will be obliged to collect textiles separately by 2025. The new Commission strategy also includes measures to support circular material and production processes, tackle the presence of hazardous chemicals and help consumers to choose sustainable textiles.

The EU has an EU Ecolabel that producers respecting ecological criteria can apply to items, ensuring a limited use of harmful substances and reduced water and air pollution.

The EU has also introduced some measures to mitigate the impact of textile waste on the environment. Horizon 2020 funds RESYNTEX, a project using chemical recycling, which could provide a circular economy business model for the textile industry.

A more sustainable model of textile production also has the potential to boost the economy. “Europe finds itself in an unprecedented health and economic crisis, revealing the fragility of our global supply chains,” said lead MEP Huitema. “Stimulating new innovative business models will in turn create new economic growth and the job opportunities Europe will need to recover.”

More about waste in the EU

After a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, Parliament will begin work on the recovery.

As the EU continues to deal with the impact of the pandemic, while delivering on priorities such as fighting climate change, here’s what to look out for in 2021.

Recovery plan and the EU’s long-term budget

Late last year, the Parliament reached a compromise with the Council on the EU’s budget for 2021-2027 and secured a deal on the budget for 2021 to support recovery. However, disagreements among member states over the mechanism devised to protect EU’s values slowed down the approval procedure.

MEPs will have to finalise the rules on the functioning of all programmes that are part of the EU’s 2021-2027 budget and the recovery plan, which will support people and businesses across the EU.

Sustainable recovery

At the heart of the EU’s Covid-19 recovery plans, the Greel Deal will lead to the dvelopment of many initiatives to promote sustainability this year. Agriculture, the circular economy, biodiversityforests, energy, emissions and the Emissions Trading System are among the topics MEPs will be working on.

Climate change

Making the EU’s 2050 climate-neutrality goal legally binding remains one of Parliament’s priorities, as the EU concludes negotiations on the Climate law. Parliament is advocating a 60% emission reduction target by 2030.

Digital services

2021 will be the year of regulating online platforms. At the end of 2020 the Commission proposed the Digital Services Act to set guidelines for the changing online landscape and ensure a better, safer digital environment for users and companies. Parliament outlined its priorities for the legislation in October 2020 ahead of the European Commission’s proposal.

Artificial intelligence

In early 2021, the Commission will propose new artificial intelligence legislation aimed at dealing with the technological, ethical, legal and socio-economic aspects of AI and ensuring Europe is at the forefront of developments. Parliament wants to make sure legislation helps boost the economy, while considering the impact on people.


The European Parliament will examine legislation seeking to create a common EU asylum and migration policy. The new measures, proposed by the Commission, aim to change and improve current asylum procedures by ensuring shared responsibility and solidarity among member states, while protecting the EU’s external borders.

Conference on the Future of Europe

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a new initiative looking at what changes could be introduced to better prepare the EU for the future, with direct involvement from citizens. The Covid-19 crisis delayed the initiative’s kick-off: however, the two-year, ongoing consultation process should begin in earnest in 2021.


The Parliament, Commission and Council sare expected to conclude negotiations on reforms to the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy for the period 2022-2027, including alignment with the European Green Deal and environmental objectives. The new Farm to Fork policy, which seeks to look at food more broadly, will also be scrutinised by MEPs.


The new year will see the launch of the EU4Health programme, which aims to help EU countries to better cooperate and coordinate in times of crisis. The priorities are protecting people from serious cross-border health threats, improving the availability of medicines and creating stronger health systems. MEPs will vote in early 2021 on a provisional deal with the Council on the rules for the programme.

EU support for emergencies

Parliament wants to revamp the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to improve the Union’s crisis management and increase preparedness for large-scale emergencies such as Covid-19 and natural disasters. MEPs want to enable the EU to acquire emergency capacities autonomously and advocate more prevention. Parliament will negotiate with the Council on the upgraded system that should become operational in 2021.

Space programme

This year should see the adoption of the EU space programme for 2021-2027, including expanding the scope of the current European GNSS Agency (GSA), renaming it the European Union Agency for the Space Programme.

EU-UK relations

The first day of the new year marked the official end of the transition period between the UK and EU, ushering in the start of a complex relationship between them. The Parliament will be involved in forging new ties with the UK, including the conclusion of ad hoc agreements in key fields such as aviation.

LUX Audience Award: check out the nominated films and vote for your favourite
2021 LUX European Audience Film Award 
The three nominated films feature cover-ups and leaps of faith: Another Round, Collective and Corpus Christi.

The three films competing for the 2021 LUX Award are: Another Round, Collective and Corpus Christi.

Parliament’s film prize gets a revamp this year by giving the public a say in who wins the LUX European Audience Film Award together with MEPs.

The three films competing for the prize were announced at a European Film Awards Ceremony on 12 December:

  • Another Round (a Denmark/Netherlands/Sweden coproduction)
  • Collective (a Romania/Luxembourg coproduction)
  • Corpus Christi (a Poland/France coproduction)

Another Round by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (original title Druk)

Have you heard of a Norwegian psychologist’s obscure theory that a small amount of alcohol in our blood opens our minds, increases creativity and keeps us happy? Four high school teachers experiment with it, but what first seems to offer a cure for a mid-life crisis goes off the rails. Vinterberg‘s movie is not only about drinking. It has a deeper message about how to face life’s highs and lows and be honest about them.

Collective by Romanian director Alexander Nanau (original title Colective)

This stirring documentary is titled after a nightclub in Bucharest where a fire killed 27 young people in 2015 and left 180 wounded. The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate why 37 of the burn victims died in hospitals although their wounds were not life threatening. They uncover terrifying nepotism and corruption that cost lives, but also show that brave and determined people can reverse corrupt systems.

Corpus Christi by Polish director Jan Komasa (original title Boże Ciało)

The film is based partly on the real story of a young convict who experiences a spiritual transformation and wants to become a priest. By a twist of fate, he ends up taking responsibility for a parish in a remote Polish village. As the story evolves, he confronts a tragic secret that is devouring the community. Through the story of this charismatic preacher, Komasa reflects on what creates a community and what makes us susceptible to both fake and real leaders.

Watch and vote

Interested in the films? Find out where you can watch them (online or in cinemas) on and cast your vote on the website.

How to vote for the LUX Audience Award
  • Voting is open on until 11 April 2021
  • You can rate each film with one to five stars
  • Ratings can be changed an unlimited number of times until voting closes. The last vote counts

The final ranking will be determined by combining the public vote and the vote by MEPs, with each group accounting for 50%. The winning film will be announced during the LUX Audience Award Ceremony on 28 April 2021 at the European Parliament.

More on the selection process in our infographic

European films in European cinemas

With this LUX Audience Award, Parliament teams up with the European Film Academy to reach a wider audience. Through its film prize, Parliament has been providing tangible support for the distribution of European films since 2007 by providing subtitles in 24 EU languages for the films in the final competition. The LUX prize has garnered a reputation by selecting European co-productions that engage with topical political and social issues and encourage debate about our values.

The European Commission and Europa Cinemas network are also partners in the LUX Award.

Circular economy: definition, importance and benefits


Repair, re-use and recycle! 


Parliament wants Europeans to switch to a circular economy by using raw materials more efficiently and reducing waste.

The circular economy: find out what it means, how it benefits you, the environment and our economy thanks to our video and infographic.

The European Union produces more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste every year. It is currently updating its legislation on waste management to promote a shift to a more sustainable model known as the circular economy. In March 2020 the European Commission presented, under the European Green Deal and as part of the proposed new industrial strategy, a new circular economy action plan that includes proposals on more sustainable product design, reducing waste and empowering consumers (such as a right to repair). Specific focus is brought to resource intensive sectors, such as electronics and ICTplasticstextiles and construction.

But what exactly does the circular economy mean? And what would be the benefits?


What is the circular economy?


The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.

This is a departure from the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume-throw away pattern. This model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.

Also part of this model is planned obsolescence, when a product has been designed to have a limited lifespan to encourage consumers to buy it again. The European Parliament has called for measures to tackle this practice.

Circular economy: click on the image above for a larger version

Why do we need to switch to a circular economy?


The world’s population is growing and with it the demand for raw materials. However, the supply of crucial raw materials is limited.

Finite supplies also means some EU countries are dependent on other countries for their raw materials.

In addition extracting and using raw materials has a major impact on the environment. It also increases energy consumption and CO2 emissions. However, a smarter use of raw materials can lower CO2 emissions.

What are the benefits?

Measures such as waste prevention, ecodesign and re-use could save EU companies money while also reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the production of materials we use every day account for 45% of the CO2 emissions.

Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth (an additional 0.5% of gross domestic product), creating jobs (700,000 jobs in the EU alone by 2030).

Consumers will also be provided with more durable and innovative products that will increase the quality of life and save them money in the long term.