Fedustria's vision for the circular economy
The mission of Fedustria, the federation of the Belgian textile, woodworking and furniture industry, is to assist member companies in their successful development. Guiding businesses in their transition to a circular economy is an essential element in this regard. Fedustria is assisted in its efforts by the sectoral technology centres Centexbel (textiles) and Wood.be (wood & furniture).
The circular economy has long been a major focus in the Belgian textile sector, which primarily specialises in interior textiles and technical textiles. For instance, businesses are prioritising the reuse of water and raw materials, substituting substances of concern, eco-design, new and more sustainable business models. There is also a strong focus on innovation, often in collaboration with Centexbel, the technology centre for the textile industry. In turn, the called-for sustainability of public procurement is crucial for clothing textiles.
Indeed, Belgian textiles businesses are endorsing the European strategy objective for sustainable and circular textiles. Along with the textiles research centre Centexbel, Fedustria is aiming to help work on the conversion of EU textiles ambitions into regional regulations, so as to enhance competitiveness and give businesses a foothold. In doing so, particular attention ought to be paid to supporting SMEs.
Various circular economy initiatives are already up and running in the furniture sector, with eco-innovation, repairability of products, extending the working life of products and exploring other business models just some of the avenues being explored.
In January 2021, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for mattresses entered into force in Belgium. Along with several mattress manufacturers and the sector federations Comeos (distribution sector) and Navem (furniture trade), Fedustria set up the non-profit organisation Valumat, the management body for EPR for mattresses. The unique feature of EPR is that, on the initiative of Valumat, there is an important role for eco-innovation and design for circularity. Various Belgian mattress manufacturers have already launched a circular mattress on the market, and in the next few years, we expect many more evolutions in this area. In short, Belgian mattress manufacturers are playing a leading role in this area at the international level.
For furniture, Europe is referring more and more to the import of a UPV system too. As to that, we take the view that the 'problem' first needs to be identified. After all, there are already a great many existing possibilities as regards reuse and recycling for furniture. We are also asking that all the alternatives to a UPV are first investigated. If a UPV does turn out to be the most recommended policy option after all, Valumat may serve as an example here.
The circular bio-economy has been embedded in the wood sector for a long time now: wood is used as a raw material for as long as possible, after which it is reused and recycled. Only when no other use of wood as a raw material is possible is it incinerated, with energy recovery. This cycle is also called the 'cascading use of wood'. The wood sector has a permanent focus on innovation. Wood recycling techniques are continually advancing, and more and more efficient use is made of the raw material wood.
To make the transition to a bio-based, circular economy, there is a need for sufficient wood. In addition, we must ensure that the valuable raw material of wood becomes correct and efficient, and that recycling is given every chance.
Moreover, the carbon stored during the growth of the tree remains stored in the wood and wooden products even after reuse and recycling. Thus, the more wood and wooden products – originating from sustainably managed forests – are used, the better for the climate.