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The textile industry consists of companies that spin natural and manmade fibres into yarns and threads, which are then converted (by weaving and knitting) into fabrics. Finally, the fabrics and in some cases the yarns and threads used to make them, are dyed and finished.

The European Union (EU) textile sector is predominantly an SME-based industry. Enterprises of less than 50 employees account for 60% of the workforce in the EU clothing sub-sector. In 1999, some 120,000 textile and clothing companies, employing more than 2 million people, created a turnover of € 178 bn. Within the overall EU manufacturing industry, the textile industry accounted for about 4% of total production and turnover, and 7.6% of employment.

Until 2001, the textile and clothing industry was concentrated in the 5 most populated countries (Italy, UK, France, Germany and Spain), accounting for about three quarters of EU production of textiles and clothing. As regards the two sub-sectors, textiles and clothing, southern countries such as Italy, Greece and Portugal and, to a lesser extent, Spain and France were the main contributors to total clothing production. Northern countries such as the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden were the main contributors to textile production. On average, the textile sector plays a more important role in the economy and employment of the new Member States and candidate countries than in the rest of the EU.

The textile sector comprises the following activities:

  • the treatment of raw materials, i.e. the preparation or production of various textile fibres, and/or the manufacture of yarns
    • "Natural" fibres include cotton, wool, silk, flax, jute, etc.
    • "Man-made" fibres include cellulosic fibres, synthetic fibres and fibres from inorganic materials
  • the production of knitted and woven fabrics (i.e. knitting and weaving)
  • finishing processes – aimed at giving fabrics the visual, physical and aesthetic properties which consumers demand – such as bleaching, printing, dyeing, impregnating, coating, plasticising, etc.
  • the transformation of those fabrics into products such as:
    • garments, knitted or woven ("clothing" industry)
    • carpets and other textile floor coverings
    • home textiles (such as bed, table, toilet and kitchen linen, curtains, etc.)
    • industrial textiles.

These textile pages provide guidance specifically for SMEs working within the sector and include information and advice on:

These pages have been compiled using information from the EUROPA - Enterprise - Textiles homepage and the European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau

See also

EUROPA - Enterprise - Textiles Homepage

European Apparel and Textile Organisation

UK Environment Agency - NetRegs - Manufacture of Textiles & Apparel

Envirowise - Industries - Textiles

Department of Trade and Industry - Textiles

Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention - Textiles Industry (resources)

Traducciones disponibles: EN EL 
Última modificación  2004-10-05
Este documento de referencia necesita ser editado para asegurar su aplicabilidad a las empreses del Reino Unido y corregir los posibles errores gramaticales. Teniendo en cuenta esto, puede consultarlo a la espera de que la versión en inglés sea editada y publicada
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