The European Commission unveiled new proposed rules today aimed at supporting the sustainable management of textile waste, and placing responsibility for the full lifecycle of textile products in the hands of producers.
According to the EU Commission, consumption of textiles has the fourth highest impact on climate change and the environment, after food, housing and mobility, and is one of the top factors impacting water and land use as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU generates 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste per year, including 5.2 million tonnes of clothing and footwear, while only 22% of post-consumer textile waste is collected separately for re-use or recycling, with the remainder often landfilled or incinerated.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said:
“The wasteful relationship we have developed with textiles pollutes our world. It uses excessive amounts of water and energy, harms nature, and drives greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. That’s why we will require producers to take stronger responsibility for the textile waste created.”
The EU Commission’s new proposal includes introducing mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, similar to those that have been used to manage waste from packaging, batteries and electric and electronic equipment. Under the EPR schemes, producers would be required to cover the costs of management of textile waste, with the amount paid into the scheme adjusted based on the textiles’ environmental performance.
The Commission said that the scheme will incentivize waste reduction and increased textile circularity, with producers motivated to design better products from the start.
Producer payments under the proposals would be used to finance investments into separate collection, sorting, re-use and recycling capacities, with the Commission adding that the proposal will also promote R&D into circularity technologies for the textiles sector, such as fibre-to-fibre recycling.
The new rules follow the introduction by the EU Commission in March 2022 of the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, aimed at addressing the lifecycle of textile products, and including proposals to change how textiles are produced and consumed. Stated objectives of the EU strategy include having all textile products placed on the EU market be durable, repairable and recyclable, and to “make fast fashion out of fashion.”
The proposal also includes rules aimed at addressing the illegal export of textile waste to other countries, ensuring that shipment will only take place with guarantees in place that the waste will be managed in an environmentally sound manner.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:
“This initiative will drive investments in the re-use and recycling infrastructure for textiles, create local jobs and boost innovation in all phases of textiles’ lifecycle. It will also create cost-saving opportunities for citizens who choose vintage, timeless fashion over fast fashion.”