European Commission Proposes Ambitious Strategy to Tackle Textile Waste and Boost Circular Economy

The European Commission has unveiled a groundbreaking strategy aimed at reducing textile waste and stimulating the used textile market throughout the European Union (EU). The proposal, which introduces mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, seeks to make manufacturers accountable for the entire lifecycle of their textile products, incentivizing waste reduction and promoting circularity.

Aligned with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, this ambitious initiative aims to foster growth in separate textile collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling sectors. In addition to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry, the increased availability of used textiles is expected to generate local employment opportunities and deliver significant cost savings for consumers, according to a press release issued by the European Commission.

The proposal involves the implementation of harmonized and obligatory EPR schemes for textiles in all EU member states. EPR schemes have proven successful in managing waste from various product categories, including packaging, batteries, and electronic equipment.

Under the proposed regulations, producers will bear the responsibility and associated costs of managing textile waste. This approach provides a strong incentive for producers to minimize waste generation and enhance the circularity of their textile products. The eco-modulation principle will adjust the financial contributions made by producers to the EPR scheme based on the environmental performance of their textiles.

The introduction of consistent and EU-wide extended producer responsibility rules will facilitate the implementation of separate textile collection programs starting from 2025. Contributions from producers will finance investments in collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling infrastructure. Emphasis will be placed on promoting the reuse of used textiles, while textiles that cannot be reused will be directed towards recycling processes.

Furthermore, the proposal seeks to spur research and development in innovative circular technologies specific to the textile sector, including advanced fibre-to-fibre recycling methods.

Addressing a pressing issue, the proposal also aims to combat the illegal export of textile waste to countries ill-equipped to handle it. The legislation will clearly define the distinction between waste and reusable textiles, discouraging the practice of disguising waste shipments as reusable items. A parallel regulation on waste shipments will ensure that textile waste is managed responsibly and in an environmentally sound manner, as stated in the press release.

The proposal, which calls for a revision of the Waste Framework Directive, will now undergo examination by the European Parliament and the Council through the ordinary legislative procedure. If approved, this comprehensive strategy will pave the way for a more sustainable and circular textile industry, marking a significant step towards achieving the EU’s environmental objectives.


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