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Digital Product Passport: The next step for the textiles and fashion industry

On March 30th, 2022, the European Commission published the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, a new and groundbreaking strategy that is to frame the future of Europe’s textiles and fashion industry with Digital Product Passports outlined as one of the new requirements¹.

Where does the Digital Product Passport come from?

The concept of the Digital Product Passport was first introduced in the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles and further defined in the Commission’s Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). The ESPR is the foundation of the European Commission’s strategy for fostering environmentally sustainable and circular products.

The ESPR for Textiles will allow for the setting of a wide range of eco-design requirements, such as:

  • product durability, reusability, upgradability, and reparability
  • presence of substances that inhibit circularity
  • energy and resource efficiency
  • recycled content
  • remanufacturing and recycling
  • carbon and environmental footprints
  • information requirements, including a Digital Product Passport (DPP)

What is the Digital Product Passport?

The European Commission defines the Digital Product Passport (DPP) as a tool to provide information about a product’s environmental sustainability. The DPP is essentially a digital record of a product’s sustainability and circularity information throughout its lifecycle, from design to end-of-life.

Information includes data on the product’s composition, origin, environmental impact, and instructions for repair, maintenance, and recycling. Additionally, the product passport is expected to assist public authorities in conducting more effective checks and controls².

Although the specific information compiled in the Digital Product Passport is yet to be defined, experts in the industry say they could be broken down into six different categories:

  1. General Product Information (identification code, product weight, manufacturing location...)
  2. Material Origins (with their associated carbon footprint)
  3. Production Process (manufacturer, details of the process, certifications of the manufacturers...)
  4. Logistics & Transportation (transportation methods, associated carbon footprint...)
  5. Maintenance & Repairs (repair instructions, product warranty details...)
  6. End of Lifecycle (instructions for product disarmament, recommended recycling process...)

The European Commission shared that the Digital Product Passport shall be connected through a data carrier (e.g., bar code, QR code, or another data-capture medium) to a unique identifier, and the data carrier shall be physically present on the product. The mandatory information requirements that will be specified as part of the ESPR will include, for example, performance, substances of concern, percentage of recycled content, and expected lifetime of the product. Blockchain-enabled Supply Chain Platforms are recommended as a best practice for DPP.

At Recover™, we collect traceability data regularly as part of our Global Recycling Standard (GRS) certification. These procedures that we currently have in place enable us to be prepared for the introduction of DPP requirements.

Who will the Digital Product Passport impact?

The Digital Product Passport is likely to transform and impact all stakeholders in the textiles and fashion industry.

There will be an increased labor of due diligence by all parties: producers, importers and distributors. Producers will also need to ensure their products meet durability criteria and recycled content thresholds, which will most likely make them adjust their production process. Importers will be the one responsible to making sure the products they import to the European Union meet the ecological and design standards. Distributors, on their hand, will also need to make sure all the information is there, and accessible to consumers.

The Digital Product Passport is expected to impact consumers, empowering them, giving them all the necessary information for them to make conscious purchases.

When will the Digital Product Passport need to be implemented?

The specifications of ESPR were expected to be published in 2024, but there are already significant delays. While initial elements are outlined in the European Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), the slow regulatory process, unclear timeline, and still-to-be-defined topics show that significant uncertainties prevail³.

One of these still-to-be-defined topics is the social impact of Sustainable Products. There are a lot of discussions within the industry on whether or not social aspects of a product should be included in the regulations and if so, how?

Another element of this new regulation that is causing delays is the technology necessary for the implementation of the Digital Product Passport as there is currently no unified and harmonized system.

Although the details of the implementation of Digital Product Passports are unclear, stakeholders of the textiles and fashion industry across the globe are getting prepared for this new regulation that would represent a significant improvement in our products’ performance and transparency.


Sources:

  1. https://environment.ec.europa.eu/strategy/textiles-strategy_en
  2. https://hadea.ec.europa.eu/calls-proposals/digital-product-passport_en
  3. “Implementing Digital Product Passport”, webinar for Innovate Traceability 25-27 April 2023 conducted by Dr- Thomas Regler (PwC)

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