New European EPR Rules For Textile Recycling: The Producer Pays Principal

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New European EPR Rules For Textile Recycling: The Producer Pays Principal

On March 13th, the European Parliament voted to adopt proposals for reducing waste from textiles. For the industry, this means the implementation of measures that would require fashion brands and textile producers to pay for the collection and recycling of clothing and footwear. The regulations would form part of a refresh to the EU Waste Framework, which currently outlines extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging, batteries, and electric and electronic equipment.

Globally, textile waste has significant environmental impacts. It is resource-, water- and land-intensive, polluting – from chemical dying in production to the degradation caused in landfill – and emits high levels of GHGs throughout its life cycle, based on production, transportation and the volume of items placed on the market. A report published by the Guardian in 2023 shone light on the 100 tonnes of clothing from Western countries that are sent to Accra, Ghana, every day, as a cheaper alternative to sustainably re-using or recycling garments in their markets of origin.

Verdantix has been monitoring regulations that seek to engrain circular production and consumption models into the apparel industry. The France Anti Waste Law (AGEC), a new French bill to penalize fast fashion brands, the Netherlands EPR for Textiles Decree and the California Fashion Act have all been designed to improve the negative externalities associated with the industry – and to shift business models towards circularity. These are timely precursors to the EU Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Regulation (ESPR) which will focus on requiring information on the durability, reusability, repairability and recyclability of products intended for sale in EU markets to be shared.

The good news for brands is that the opportunity for obtaining value from a growing resale market is significant. In 2021, British resale marketplace Depop was acquired by Etsy for $1.6 billion. Thredup has estimated that the current global market for secondhand apparel surpassed $200 billion in revenue in 2023. Organizations are taking advantage with alterations to their operating models. Uniqlo has take-back schemes in its shops to encourage recycling of used garments. Patagonia has a Worn Wear strategy to extend the useful life cycle of products, through repair and reuse services, upcycling into new clothing, or through mechanical or chemical recycling.

While there are costs associated with collecting, sorting and recycling clothing under the proposed EPR schemes, brands already active in the market are not only improving their sustainability performance but may also be able to tap additional value in the secondhand market and utilize materials for maximum useful lifespans.

There are also technology platforms that enable circularity. These range from supply chain traceability solutions, like TrustTrace, that can illuminate material origins and provide clarity on product composition for end of life decision-making to digital product passport solutions, like TwinTags, that connect clothing producers with consumers through QR codes, delivering information on product extension and recyclability. Increasingly, smart recycling solution providers such as Greyparrot are driving efficiencies in material recovery facilities (MRF) and maximizing ROI through material value recapture. For more insights into circular economy digital solutions head here


Guy Lewis

Industry Analyst

Guy is an Industry Analyst in the Verdantix ESG & Sustainability practice. He currently leads research on circular economy software and services and supports research across several other ESG and sustainability themes. Prior to joining Verdantix, Guy was an energy specialist helping to optimize member experience, through which he gained knowledge of both operations and smart technologies. Guy holds a BA in Geography from the University of Manchester, with a placement year at the University of Queensland.