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).
Fedustria is a pioneer in the domain of the circular economy, as evidenced by the wide range of projects already implemented in this area in collaboration with Centexbel and Wood.be. For example, the project SUSPRO³ (Sustainable Production, Processes and Profit) was launched back in 2010, followed a few years later by SUSTECH (Sustainable Technologies), while the project Retex (Recycling of Textiles) was recently finalised. Fedustria is also a partner of the Green Deal Circular Procurement and the current Green Deal Circular Construction. Fedustria is also represented on the Steering Committee of Flanders Circular.
Furthermore, Fedustria has advocated for many years to incorporate sustainability criteria into public procurement. Of course, Fedustria will continue its efforts to motivate and guide its member companies toward a circular future.
The circular economy has long been a major focus in the Belgian textile sector, which primarily specialises in interior textiles and technical textiles. For example, 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.
The Belgian textile industry is therefore well positioned to capitalise on the circular action plan for textiles announced by the European Commission. In anticipation, the European Textile and Fashion Federation Euratex, together with Fedustria and others, has already devised a strategy for circular textiles. It is also advocating for a recycling hub for textile waste streams to ensure maximum upcycling and circularity.
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. Together with the European umbrella federation EFIC (the European Confederation of the Furniture Industry), Fedustria produced a vision document, which describes the opportunities and challenges for the furniture industry in the area of the circular economy.
In January 2021, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for mattresses entered into force in Belgium. Together 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.
The circular bio-economy has long been incorporated into the wood sector. Taking a circular approach is ingrained in day-to-day operations: wood is used as a raw material for as long as possible, then reused and recycled. Only when no other use of wood as a raw material is possible is it incinerated, with energy recovery. The role of the wood sector within the circular bio-economy is described in the publication "Wood: Building the bio-economy" which was drawn up in collaboration with the European umbrella federation CEI-Bois.
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. For one thing, wood is just about the most renewable resource. Moreover, thanks to innovations, there are ever more possibilities for the application of wood in construction. The fact that the use of wood in construction will only become more important is confirmed by the European Commission's renovation strategy (October 2020). Sustainable forest management of course forms the foundation, so that the availability of wood will continue to be guaranteed in the future.