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The European Parliament wants EU member states to implement EPR rules more quickly

By Esmee Blaazer


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Image: Pexels

The European Parliament has taken another step to tackle the problem of textile waste and food waste within the European Union. The vast majority of the group of people who make EU laws voted in favour of revising waste policy (known as the Waste Framework).

This is an important step in the European Union's legislative process. More ambitious reduction targets were proposed to drastically reduce the amount of wasted food by 2030, and extended producer responsibility for textiles (EPR) was discussed.

For companies that make or sell textile products, it was decided that they should take more responsibility for what happens to their products when they are no longer used. These companies will have to start paying for the collection, sorting and recycling of textile products. The idea is that this will encourage companies to make products that are easier to recycle, or that last longer.

EU countries have 18 months from when these new rules come into force to set up systems to ensure compliance, MEPs say. This is a shorter period than the 30 months originally proposed by the European Commission.

These rules apply to a wide range of textile products, such as clothes and shoes, bedding, curtains, carpets and materials we would not normally immediately label as 'textiles', such as leather or plastic.

For some countries, this Parliamentary news does not mean much. For example, the Netherlands has already established the EPR anyway (although this Dutch law is again part of the European EPR law).

The Netherlands is the second European country with an EPR, while France was the first country to adopt EPR for the textile and footwear sector in 2007. In 2008, ReFashion was established, a collective that makes it easier to meet the targets by working together. In Sweden, EPR Textiles had been in the works since 2019. The legislation went into effect on 1 January 2022, but for practical reasons it was not enforced until 1 January 2024.

Then there are the countries getting ready for EPR Textiles, such as Belgium and Spain for example. Belgium initiated the first phase in 2022. The Belgian fashion federation Creamoda, the Federation of Belgian Textile Suppliers (FBT) and professional federation of manufacturers, distributors and service providers Febelsafe then presented Circletex vzw - a producer organisation that, as a collective, will make it easier to meet the EPR obligations later. In Spain, the textile industry will be obliged to collect textile waste separately from 2025.

Next steps

The dossier will be followed up by the new Parliament after the European elections on 6-9 June.

Background: textile waste and recycling

The European Parliament reports that there are 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste in the EU every year. Clothing and footwear account for 5.2 million tonnes, representing 12 kg of waste per person per year.

Every year, 150 million kilos of textiles are destroyed as residual waste in the Netherlands. 100 million kilos are collected in textile bins. Some of this ends up in Dutch second-hand shops, but most of it goes across the border, to be recycled or resold abroad.

Recycling of textiles - and clothing - is currently only done on a relatively small scale. The Materials Market 2023 Report by the organisation Textile Exchange, which covers production volume and fibres and raw materials used for textiles, states that the market share of recycled textiles fell slightly from around 8.5 percent in 2021 to 7.9 percent in 2022. Pre- and post-consumer recycled textiles accounted for less than 1 percent of the total global fibre market in the year 2022, it said. In other words, the vast majority of textile fibres worldwide are from virgin ('new') materials.

Why is that? Extracting fibres already in circulation through recycling is usually more difficult (because, technically complex) and expensive than manufacturing new garments from new fibres/raw materials.

The positive news is that efforts are underway to improve and scale up the garment recycling process.

So too are governments developing and implementing laws and regulations to promote sustainability and accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Goals include reducing the negative impact of production and consumption on the environment, encouraging the use of renewable resources, and extending the life of products by promoting reuse, repair and recycling.

Some parts of this text were generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) tool and then edited.

Sustainable Fashion