New EU labelling laws threat to wool industry

New EU labelling laws threaten Aussie wool industry

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Australian Wool Innovation director Don Macdonald said proposed EU labelling laws is something he believes is worth fighting for with the threat of disadvantaging all natural products.

Australian Wool Innovation director Don Macdonald said proposed EU labelling laws is something he believes is worth fighting for with the threat of disadvantaging all natural products.

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AWI fights for wool producers as new EU labelling laws threaten the industry.

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Products for sale in the European Union (EU) could soon be required to include a label that provides consumers with the EU's assessment of a product's environmental credentials in an effort to guide consumers towards choosing the most sustainable products.

Through the EU's Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF) project, it is expected to soon become the most influential market-facing reporting system for environmental credentials.

But according to Australia's peak industry body, the new labelling laws on consumer products, including apparel products, don't tell the entire story and could pose a serious threat to Australia's wool industry.

Speaking at the MerinoLink conference recently, Australian Wool Innovation director Don Macdonald said the new laws threaten to disadvantage all natural products, and it is something he believes is worth fighting for.

"AWI is advocating for robust science to underpin the PEF's rating methods, thereby maximising wool's reputation and minimising the risk that wool could be disadvantaged," Mr Macdonald said.

"At the moment, the way things are positioned for wool and other natural fibres, but particularly wool because it is an animal based fibre, they are measuring the carbon footprint and they are measuring methane output.

"The European people who set these standards, once they put them into play, largely the rest of the world follows suit. Particularly in fashion and garments."

The standard PEF follows for lifecycle analysis is called the Higg Index, and is executed similar to labelling on white goods.

But according to Mr Macdonald, the Higg Index currently only measures the carbon footprint of that product up to the shop rack.

"And it ends at the shop rack," he said.

"So polyester and acrylics and all those fibres that make up well over a majority of the textile market end up in landfill - 10 to 12pc of global landfill, 1000s of tonnes of micro-plastics going into the ocean through grey water every year, none of that is counted in the labelling laws.

"In the global wool industry, who else is going to take on the fight and who else has got the money to take on the fight?"

Mr McDonald said co-partnerships are in place with South Africa and the cotton industry has jumped on board because they know what a serious threat this is for their industry.

"We are now lobbying the EU Council not to be swayed by the technical secretariat who advises the EU Council," Mr Macdonald said.

"But the technical secretariat has in its constituency people like H&M, the largest fast fashion company in the world, Nike, C&A and other global fashion outlets that largely trade in plastic.

"In fact, their trading in recycled polyester is one of the largest growing segments of the textile industry, which are plastic bottles recycled into garments."

Plastic bottles can only ever be recycled once and studies are already showing an increased rate of microfibre plastics going into waterways.

In the UK alone, it is estimated 12 thousand tonnes of microfibre plastics are going into the ocean every year and end up in the food chain.

"This is something I believe we have to fight for, and if we win, basically life goes on as normal," Mr Macdonald said.

"But if we lose, we end up with labelling laws which will disadvantage all natural products.

"And as we all know, if you go into Harvey Norman to buy a washing machine, you don't buy the one star rating, you buy the three to four star rating."

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