The figures are staggering. In Europe, clothing and footwear account for 5.2 million tonnes of waste, or 12kg per person per year, according to the Joint Research Centre. Only 22% of post-consumer textile waste is currently collected separately for reuse or recycling. In the United States, the figures are around 36kg of discarded textiles per person per year, a volume that has increased by 55% since 2000, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In order to find a solution to the low level of optimisation of these potential resources, several draft laws are aiming to set up Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, based on the “polluter pays” principle.
What is the Extended Producer Responsibility?
The aim is to make brands responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, and to help finance the management of their end-of-life: separate collection, sorting, reuse and recycling of textiles. Until now, this has been the responsibility of local authorities.
To achieve this, it will be necessary to set up an individual system that meets the regulatory requirements, or to join dedicated eco-organisations that will support the implementation of these systems.
Extended Producer Responsibility is well-known in France, where it has been in force since 2008. In the Netherlands and Spain, it has been in place since 2023, while it is being studied in other countries, such as Italy. To avoid a major administrative burden arising from regulatory fragmentation, the European Union now intends to harmonise the frameworks set by the Member States.
Which criteria are taken into consideration?
Producers will have to cover the costs of managing textile waste by paying an earmarked tax per product placed on the market. To encourage more sustainable product design from the outset, criteria will be set to allow eco-modulation, in other words, a financial incentive to reduce the fee payable if the conditions are met.
Textiles will also have to be treated in accordance with the waste hierarchy: used clothing must be reused and repaired as a priority. The introduction of EPR should also enable more textile waste to be recycled, ideally from textile to textile.
Illegal exports of textile waste to countries ill-equipped to manage them are also included in the European text. The law will specify the criteria that qualify a textile as reusable, in order to put an end to exports of waste disguised as being intended for reuse.
Read also: What is New York State’s PFA ban all about?
Who does it apply to?
The legislation in New York State and California applies to producers of clothing, textile accessories and bags, as well as household linen and textile furnishings.
In the European Union, producers of clothing, footwear and home textiles are subject to the law, with an exemption for micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees).
When will the EPR schemes come into force?
Separate collection of textile waste will come into effect on 1st January 2025 in the EU, under the Waste Framework Directive, and the implementation date for Extended Producer Responsibility should be specified in 2024.
California’s Responsible Textile Recovery Act is due to be revised in 2024, with potential application in 2026. New York’s legislation aims to be implemented from 1st July 2025. If these texts are adopted, all retailers, distributors and wholesalers who do not integrate an Extended Producer Responsibility system will no longer be authorised to sell covered products collected and managed in these two States.