In June 2023, MEPs set out proposals for tougher EU measures to halt the excessive production and consumption of textiles. Parliament’s report calls for textiles to be produced respecting human, social and labour rights, as well as the environment and animal welfare.

EU measures to tackle textile waste

The EU has an EU Ecolabel that producers respecting ecological criteria can apply to items. This gives more visibility to products that include fewer harmful substances and cause less water and air pollution.

In 2018, the waste directive was approved by the Parliament. The Commission strategy also includes measures to tackle the presence of hazardous chemicals, while it calls on producers to take responsibility for their products along the value chain, including when they become waste, and aims to help consumers to choose sustainable textiles.

The Parliament put forwardideas for changes to textile waste rules in March 2024. The revision of the waste directive will introduce extended producer responsibility schemes. This means in practice that producers of textiles, such as clothing, footwear hats, accessories, as well as other companies that put such products on the European single market, will have to cover the costs for the separate collection, sorting and recycling.

While the Commission proposed that the extended producer responsibility schemes should be introduced 30 months after the directive enters into force, MEPs pushed for 18 months. In addition, EU countries would be obliged to collect textiles separately by 1 January 2025 for re-use, preparing for re-use and recycling.

“We request a textile waste reduction target, with an oversight of exported used textiles,” said Anna Zalewska (ECR, Poland), the MEP responsible for steering the rules through Parliament. She also called for better infrastructure for separate collection of textiles and more efficient sorting of municipal waste, so that items which can be recycled are extracted before being sent to the incinerator or landfill.

Next steps

The negotiations with the Council will be done by the next Parliament, which will be elected during the European elections on 6-9 June 2024.

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