EU Proposal Would Make Producers Responsible for Lifecycle of Textiles

Stacked and rolled towels

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

by | Jul 10, 2023

Stacked and rolled towels

(Credit: Pixabay)

The European Commission has issued new proposed rules that would make producers responsible for the lifecycle of textile products in an effort to promote sustainable management of textile waste across the European Union.

The Commission proposes introducing mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes for textiles across the EU, an initiative that’s in line with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles and would accelerate the development of the separate collection, sorting, reuse and recycling sector for textiles. The strategy addresses the production and consumption of textile while also recognizing the importance of the sector.

Such EPR schemes have been successful across other industries and sectors in improving waste management.

The Textile industry is one of the biggest polluters and waste-producing sectors, generating 17 million tons of waste in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Commission, the EU produces 12 million tons of textile waste per year, with clothing and footwear accounting for 5.2 million tons per year.

The proposed rules come as the textile retail industry has made several changes in the last few years in an effort to improve sustainability and reduce waste. Individual companies are making the most ground, such as textile company Evrnu launching a high performance, recyclable lyocell material made entirely from cotton textile waste last year. The Lycra company also began selling products last year made with recycled textile waste

Under the proposed rules for the textile sector, “producers will cover the costs of management of textile waste, which will also give them incentives to reduce waste and increase the circularity of textile products — designing better products from the start,” the Commission said in its announcement. “How much producers will pay to the EPR scheme will be adjusted based on the environmental performance of textiles, a principle known as ‘eco-modulation.’”

Contributions made by producers will also go toward collecting textiles separately, with  separate collection, sorting, re-use and recycling capacities. Textiles that can be sorted for reuse and those that cannot be used again will be directed toward recycling as a priority. The requirements will reduce waste and bulk up business opportunities and the marketplace for second-hand textiles. 

In addition the new rules would aim to promote research and development into innovative technologies for the circular economy of the sector. One example of this is fiber-to-fiber recycling, which recycles clothing to make new garments. 

The Commission also addressed illegal imports of textile waste to countries that can’t support it in the proposed rules, clarifying what constitutes waste and reusable textiles. The rules stop the practice of waste being exported under the guise of recyclable textiles. The measure complements the proposal for a new Regulation on waste shipments, which would guarantee waste is not shipped to areas where it is not managed in an “environmentally sound manner.”

The proposed rules will now head to the European Parliament and the Council to be considered in the ordinary legislative procedure.

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