The European Commission has put forth a groundbreaking proposal to revolutionize the way textiles are managed in the EU. The initiative aligns with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, aiming to bolster the separate collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling of textiles.  

Mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Schemes

 One of the key aspects of the proposal is the introduction of mandatory and harmonized Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for textiles in all EU Member States. Under these schemes, producers will shoulder the costs of managing textile waste, providing them with incentives to reduce waste and promote circularity in textile product design. 

The ‘eco-modulation’ principle will be employed to adjust producers’ contributions based on the environmental performance of textiles. This will reward eco-friendly practices and encourage the production of more sustainable textiles from the outset. 

Financing the Circular Textile Economy

 Producers’ contributions to the EPR scheme will fund essential investments in a separate collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling infrastructure. The proposal aims to ensure that used textiles are effectively sorted for reuse, with any items unsuitable for reuse being prioritized for recycling. 

Support for Social Enterprises and Innovation

 The proposed rules will not only benefit the environment but also present business opportunities for social enterprises engaged in textile collection and treatment. With an expanded market for second-hand textiles, social enterprises will play a crucial role in advancing the circular textile economy.  

Furthermore, the proposal promotes research and development of innovative technologies, such as fiber-to-fiber recycling, to boost circular practices in the textile sector.

Curbing Illegal Exports and Enhancing Waste Management

Besides boosting sustainability, the new rule covers the problems of illegal textile waste exports to countries unprepared to handle it. Clear definitions of waste and reusable textiles will put an end to the practice of disguising waste exports as items for reuse. To further ensure environmental soundness, the proposal will align with a new Regulation on waste shipments.  

Textile Waste: A Growing Concern

The EU currently generates a staggering 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste annually, with clothing and footwear alone contributing to 5.2 million tonnes of waste, equivalent to 12 kg per person each year. Presently, only 22% of post-consumer textile waste is collected separately for recycling or reuse, leaving the majority destined for incineration or landfills.  

Next Steps

The proposed amendment to the Waste Framework Directive will now undergo consideration by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative procedure. If adopted, these rules will mark a significant step forward in the EU’s journey toward a sustainable and circular economy.  


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