Waste in the textile industry: the EU Commission’s strategy on Extended Producer Responsibility

With Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (Waste Framework Directive - WFD) the EU commission set a series of requirements to improve the re-use and recycling of waste in the European Union.

The EU Commission believes that “in order to avoid waste treatment which locks in resources at the lower levels of the waste hierarchy, increase preparing for re-use and recycling rates, enable high-quality recycling and boost the uptake of quality secondary raw materials, Member States should (…) introduce separate collection of bio-waste, hazardous waste produced by households and textile waste (…)” (see Paragraph 42 of the Preamble of Directive (EU) 2018/851).

The amended WFD already contains an invite to the Member States to adopt rules on EPR with specific regard to textiles. Article 12 of the WFD, in fact, provides an obligation for the Member States to introduce separate collection by 1 January 2025.

Article 8 of the WFD sets forth that Member States should ensure that any professional that develops, manufactures, processes, treats, sells or imports products has an extended producer responsibility. EPR may consist of “an acceptance of returned products and of the waste that remains after those products have been used (…) the subsequent management of the waste and financial responsibility for such activities” as well as “the obligation to provide publicly available information as to the extent to which the product is re-usable and recyclable”.

In the current scenario, if a Member State decides to introduce EPR schemes, it should assure that its legislation meets all the general minimum requirements laid down in Article 8a of the WFD. The adoption of an EPR scheme is thus currently remitted to the discretion of the Member States.

Given the above obligations, several EU Member States already have or are considering the introduction of their own EPR requirements for textiles.

On 30 March 2022, in the context of the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles of the EU Green Deal, the EU Commission proposed harmonised EU extended producer responsibility rules for textiles as part of the forthcoming revision of the Waste Framework Directive in 2023 and invited EU institutions and bodies to endorse its strategy.

According to the EU Commission’s communication of 30 March 2022, “The key objective will be to create an economy for collection, sorting, reuse, preparation for reuse and recycling, as well as incentives for producers and brands to ensure that their products are designed in respect of circularity principles. To that end and subject to an impact assessment, the Commission will propose that a notable share of contributions made to EPR schemes will be dedicated to waste prevention measures and preparing for reuse. The Commission will also consider requiring that separately collected textile waste from households and similar waste is prepared for reuse as a necessary first step, which will boost preparing for reuse, reuse and repair activities and reduce the volumes for types of waste treatment that are lower in the waste hierarchy”.

EU institutions and bodies are now required to endorse and provide their comments on the EU Commission’s strategy.

Update of 11/07/23

On 5 July 2023 the EU Commission published a document named “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste”, where it proposes to introduce, among other things, a mandatory EPR scheme for textiles, textile-related and footwear products (“textiles”) in all Member States. The aim of the EU Commission is “to make producers responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products and to support the sustainable management of textile waste across the EU”.

Based on the draft document, EPR schemes shall be established at local level by 30 months after the entry into force of the Directive.

According to the proposed rules, the scope of the textile producers covered by the extended producer responsibility shall include “any manufacturer, importer or distributor or other natural or legal person (…) who, irrespective of the selling technique used, including by means of distance contracts as defined in Article 2(7) of Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, either:

  1. are established in a Member State and manufactures textile, textile-related and footwear products listed in Annex IVc under their own name or trademark, or have them designed or manufactured and supply them for the first time under their own name or trademark within the territory of that Member State;
  2. are established in a Member State and resell within the territory of that Member State, under their own name or trademark, textile, textile-related and footwear products listed in Annex IVc manufactured by other producers referred to in point (a), on which the name, brand or trademark of the manufacturer does not appear;
  3. are established in a Member State and supply for the first time in that Member State on a professional basis, textile, textile-related and footwear products listed in Annex IVc from another Member State or from a third country; or
  4. sell textile, textile-related and footwear products listed in Annex IVc by means of distance communication directly to end-users, including private households or other than private households, in a Member State, and are established in another Member State or in a third country (…)".

The scope of the textiles covered by the proposed Directive is also defined in Annex IVc of the document and ranges from textile clothing and accessories to blankets, curtains, linen, leather goods and footwear.

Moreover, textile producers will be required to cover the costs, of inter alia: the collection and subsequent waste management of used and waste textile products; providing information on sustainable consumption, waste prevention, re-use, preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery, and disposal of textiles products; data gathering and reporting to the competent authorities; and support to research and development sorting and recycling processes.

Providers of online platforms that allow consumers to conclude distance contracts with textile producers will be also required to obtain from textile producers relevant information on their registration in the register of producers where the consumer is located as well as a self-certification from the producer on the compliance with the EPR requirements.

The proposed rules also require Member States to establish a register of textile producers locally to monitor the compliance of producers with the proposed rules and to which producers are required to register providing information on their entity, their products, and the producer responsibility organisation they designated. Textile producers will be allowed to supply a product in a certain Member State only if they are registered (possibly also through a producer responsibility organisation designated by the producer) in the local register of textile producers.

According to the proposed rules, to fulfil their EPR obligations textile producers will be also required to designate a producer responsibility organisation, which shall be in its turn authorised by the local competent authorities. How much producers will pay to the organisation will be adjusted mainly based on the environmental performance of their textiles (so-called “eco-modulation”).

Producer responsibility organisations will be required to set up a system to separately collect used and waste textiles consisting of collection points placed in the whole territory of a Member State, ensuring a collection, free of charge, of these products with a frequency that is proportionate to the geographical area and the volume of products. The collection shall be offered to social enterprises and other re-use operators identified in the document.

Member States shall ensure by 1 January 2025 the separate collection of textiles for re-use, preparation for re-use and recycling.

The proposed Directive will be now evaluated by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative procedure.

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