EU Waste Framework Directive – Textile EPR

Ella Fairlie's blog discusses the EU Waste Framework Directive's new amendment to improve textile waste management, including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to make producers accountable for waste costs, and to encourage sustainable practices. She outlines the 2023 changes to enforce stricter recycling and design requirements and limit waste exports.

What is the EU Waste Framework Directive?

The EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) addresses the importance of managing waste by implementing regulations to minimise the impact waste has on the environment and human health. The Waste Hierarchy produced by the Directive describes waste prevention to be the preferred waste management outcome, and states disposal to landfill to be the last resort.

Multiple targets have been set out to meet the WFD objectives outlined above, the next target is for EU countries to have a minimum of 55% by weight of municipal waste to be prepared for re-use and recycling by 2025. This increases to 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. Appropriate measures have been implemented across the EU to achieve these targets; a recent requirement in effort to manage waste has been the 2023 Amendment which focuses on textile waste.

Waste textiles

At present, 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from textile production. Textiles include clothing, accessories, footwear, household linen, toys, carpet, and furniture. With a rise in fast fashion, clothing and footwear production and consumption has increased, consequently contributing to 8% of global GHG emissions. The rate at which textiles are produced, consumed, and discarded is having severe impacts on the environment, demanding large amounts of natural resources such as land and water. Moreover, when waste textiles are to be discarded, they are often exported to less-developed countries to be re-used. In some cases, the exported textile waste is disguised as re-usable, causing illegal disposal of waste and placing the social and environmental burden onto other countries.

High quantities of textile waste are produced in the EU; in 2019 it was reported that the EU generated 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste per year, 5 million tonnes of which was clothing waste, equating to 12kg per person. It is estimated that 80% of the primary raw materials, 88% of water and 73% of the GHG emissions to produce textiles consumed in the EU in 2020 were from outside of the EU. The textile consumption in the EU is creating a high demand, causing the production and disposal of textiles to have a negative impact across the globe. To address these concerns, the EU published a Strategy for Sustainable Circular Textiles in 2022 which set out objectives for a greener system, promoting a transition away from fast fashion, and ensuring textiles are durable, repairable, and recyclable to minimise incineration and landfill of waste textiles. The Commission has various actions, including design requirements for longer-lasting textiles, commitments to tackle greenwashing, restrictions on exporting textile waste and to discourage unsold textile destruction by incineration. The action to introduce mandatory and harmonised Extender Producer Responsibility rules for textiles in EU Member States which, in line with the 2022 strategy, has been revised in the 2023 Amendment to the EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC.

Textile EPR

As part of the 2023 Amendment, EU Member States must establish a register of producers of textiles, textile-related and footwear products to monitor producers. This aims to encourage research and development into innovative technologies for a circular textile sector. The new regulation will require producers to take responsibility for their products life cycle and end of life; producers will cover the costs of collecting waste textiles, transporting, sorting, and preparing the textile waste for reuse, recycling, or other recovery options.

At present, France, The Netherlands, and Hungary are the only EU countries with active textile EPR, with Latvia implementing a Natural Resource Tax on any clothing, footwear, or household textiles as of 1 July 2024. Hence, most EU Member States will now be required to implement new requirements for producers. Outlined in Article 22a of the proposal to amend the Directive 2008/98/EC on waste are further measures EU Member States must take and how the EPR scheme for textiles will impact producers of textile, textile-related or footwear products operating inside the state or online.

For further information on textile EPR, to understand your potential obligations, or to seek assistance from Valpak’s dedicated team, please contact us by emailing [email protected]