Discussion on how the PPE and textile care sector could contribute to a safer and more sustainable Europe
The SBS sector forum on personal protective equipment (PPE) on 20 October was held virtually due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. Over 40 participants saw an intense exchange of ideas on how the PPE and textile care sector could contribute to a safer and more sustainable Europe and how standards as well as public procurement practices can play a role in that. The SBS sectoral associations DTV and SME Safety encouraged the Commission and the standardisation bodies to take action in areas where a sector, mainly driven by SMEs, has a business model which already incorporates principles of reuse, repair, recycle, and a sharing economy.
PPE manufacturers and textile services representatives argued that the PPE industry apparently has not been considered a strategic partner by the EU in the past which contributed to manufacturers’ inability to respond adequately and in time to the unprecedent demand of PPE during the Covid-19 crisis. It was therefore widely acknowledged that the European Union had to take immediate actions in the short term that mainly focussed on disposable PPE solutions. However, the discussion showed that the European Commission, standardisation bodies as well as PPE manufacturers and textile services companies want to strengthen the role of sustainable PPE supply solutions in the near future.
Panelists and participants encouraged the EU to move to a more strategic and proactive role - i.e. including reusable PPE in public procurement and strengthen the local supply chains to make Europe more independent in crisis. The calls for involvement of all stakeholders into discussions and standardisation was also welcomed and will certainly encourage step towards considering circular aspects strategic for European economy and businesses, including SMEs. Experiences of other industries (i.e. energy efficiency labels) could for example be used to incorporate circularity aspects into PPE standards by focusing on an eco-design approach, where maintainability, reusability, durability can be defined, and a clear procedure for end-of-life is detailed.