European Parliament research puts forward requirements of a digital product passport for textiles

Report suggests mechanism for tracking garments should start by 2027, laddering up to a full circular DPP by 2033.

Hand holding up a mocked up EU passport that says 'Digital Product Passport' with an icon for clothing and the word 'Textiles' underneathThe European Parliament is progressing with plans for a Digital Product Passport (DPP) for textiles, as part of delivering on the European Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan.

Development of such a mechanism aims to address some of the complex challenges facing the fashion industry, including its substantial environmental footprint and the need for greater transparency throughout the supply chain.

A recently published study (28 June) commissioned by the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) of the European Parliament has put forward key requirements and recommendations for a textiles DPP. Conducted by experts from the ESTIA Institute of Technology and Belharra, the research involved a comprehensive review of regulatory texts, scientific literature, and existing initiatives, complemented by a survey of over 80 industry stakeholders.

A DPP for textiles is a comprehensive digital record associated with each textile product, spanning its entire lifecycle. It consists of a flexible identifier and a broad dataset covering material composition, manufacturing processes, supply chain information, environmental impact, and social responsibility metrics.

Unlike static labels, the DPP is dynamic and evolves throughout the product's life, updated at various stages from production to end-of-life processing. This will help stakeholders such as manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and recyclers to contribute and access information for their specific needs.

The DPP aims to improve transparency, promote sustainable procurement, and enable more efficient recycling and reuse processes in the textile industry.

The research identified several key aims and contributions of the DPP. For consumers, it will provide detailed product information at the point of purchase, allowing for more informed decision-making. Companies will benefit from centralised data accessible across different parts of a business, improving internal efficiency and decision-making processes. The DPP will also assist in managing resource flows by tracking material sources and quantities, helping companies to improve sourcing strategies by accounting for environmental and social impacts.

A key aspect of the DPP is its potential to support a more circular approach. By providing detailed information on product composition, care instructions, repair options, and end-of-life guidelines, the DPP can significantly extend product lifespans and improve reuse and recycling outcomes.

According to the report: "The main advantage of the DPP is that it goes beyond a simple label. Thanks to the information it contains, this tool has the power to overcome the lack of data associated with a product, an obstacle that has so far hampered repair, recycling and reuse processes. Thanks to the data contained in the DPP, it will be easier to repair products by identifying them and accessing specific maintenance or repair services to order spare parts. This service would be available to consumers and circularity actors: repairers, second-hand dealers, renters, collectors, sorters and recyclers."

The DPP will also support market surveillance and regulatory compliance, to facilitate customs declarations and help companies meet legal requirements for product information disclosure, such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation and the planned revision of the Textile Labelling Regulation.

In terms of stakeholder involvement, the research outlines a diverse ecosystem that will interact with the DPP. Supply chain companies, from raw material producers to manufacturers, will input data on materials, processing methods, and production techniques. Brands will contribute information on design, intended use, and care instructions. Retailers will update the DPP with sales and distribution data. Certification and assessment companies will verify claims and add compliance information. Consumers will have access to product information and potentially contribute data on product use and satisfaction. Circularity operators, such as repair services and recyclers, will both utilise and add to the DPP throughout a product's lifecycle.

The information contained within the DPP will be comprehensive, covering various aspects of a product's lifecycle. Product description and composition will form the foundation, detailing materials used and their proportions. Supply chain information will trace the journey of the product, including transportation data, which is crucial for calculating the overall environmental impact. Documentation, such as compliance certificates and audit reports, will be linked to support claims made about the product.

Environmental and social impact data will provide a wider view of the product's sustainability credentials, including carbon footprint calculations, water usage, and information on labour practices. Health impact information could signpost any potential risks associated with the product, such as the presence of harmful chemicals.

The research’s industry consultation revealed broad support for the DPP concept, with stakeholders emphasising the need for standardised, interoperable data formats. However, concerns were raised about data privacy, the potential administrative burden, especially for SMEs, and the need to protect sensitive business information. These concerns highlight the need for a carefully balanced approach in implementing the DPP.

To address these challenges and ensure the DPP's practical viability, several technical aspects need to be resolved. Data authenticity and credibility pose a technical obstacle, potentially requiring the implementation of technologies like blockchain to create tamper-evident records.

Standardisation will be essential to ensure interoperability across the industry, necessitating the development of open standards for data exchange. Access control mechanisms need to be established to protect sensitive information while promoting transparency and a secure, distributed system for long-term data storage and access will need to be developed.

The report proposes a three-phase roadmap for introducing the textile DPP:
1. By 2027, deploy a 'minimal and simplified DPP' focusing on essential product information and basic environmental impact data.
2. By 2030, implement an 'advanced DPP' with more comprehensive supply chain information, after-sales tracking, and initial circularity metrics.
3. By 2033, roll out a 'full circular DPP' integrating complete lifecycle data, supporting closed-loop material flows, and providing detailed circularity performance indicators.

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