The EU Textile Strategy: Harmonisation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for sustainability in Europe
The European Union has acted decisively to minimise the environmental impact of the textile industry. The EU Textile Strategy, developed as part of this endeavour, aims to strengthen producer responsibility for the entire life cycle of textile products and promote sustainable management of textile waste. In this article, we take a neutral look at the sustainability of the textile industry and focus in particular on the EU’s ambitious plans to harmonise extended producer responsibility (EPR) for textiles across all Member States.
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The EU Textile Strategy aims to minimise the environmental impact of the textile industry. Through binding regulations on extended producer responsibility (EPR) for textiles in all member states, manufacturers are obliged to bear the costs of managing textile waste. From 2025, a systematic separate collection of textiles will be introduced in the Member States and the strategy supports the development of innovative technologies. It also combats the illegal export of textile waste and is committed to reducing food waste. The EU Textile Strategy thus promotes a more sustainable textile industry in Europe.
What is the vision behind the EU textile strategy?
The EU textile strategy has a clear vision for the period up to 2030, according to which all textile products placed on the EU market should be durable, repairable and recyclable. They should consist mainly of recycled fibres and contain no hazardous substances. These products should be manufactured in strict compliance with social rights. In this vision of the future, so-called “fast fashion” – fast, short-lived fashion – is seen as outdated. Instead, consumers are increasingly focussing on high-quality textiles that last longer.
Profitable services for reuse and repair will be widespread. In a competitive environment characterised by a resilient and innovative textile sector, manufacturers are taking responsibility for their products along the entire value chain. Circular clothing becomes the norm, accompanied by sufficient recycling capacity, while clothing waste is incinerated or landfilled as little as possible. This vision provides a clear guide for the EU’s efforts to make the textile industry more sustainable and minimise its impact on the environment and society.
How sustainable is the textile industry?
The textile industry is globally recognised for its high consumption of resources and serious environmental impact. In the European Union alone, 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste is generated every year, of which 5.2 million tonnes is clothing and footwear. Unfortunately, only 22 per cent of this waste is properly separated and collected for reuse or recycling, while the majority ends up in incinerators or landfills.
The EU textile strategy in practice
The EU has developed a far-reaching textile strategy to tackle these pressing problems. A central component of this strategy is the introduction of binding regulations on extended producer responsibility (EPR) for textiles, which are to apply uniformly in all member states.
Under these regulations, manufacturers will be obliged to bear the costs of managing textile waste in order to incentivise the development of waste-reducing products. The amount of the costs is linked to the environmental impact of the textiles, which is known as “eco-modulation”.
From 2025, Member States are to systematically collect textiles separately, with financial contributions from manufacturers being channelled into creating capacities for collection, sorting, reuse and recycling. In addition, the strategy supports research into innovative technologies for the textile industry, including the promising fibre-to-fibre recycling.
What does ecomodulation mean?
Ecomodulation is a central concept in the EU Textile Strategy. It refers to the idea that the costs that manufacturers have to bear for the management of textile waste should depend on the environmental impact of the textiles produced. In other words, the more environmentally damaging a product is, the higher the costs the manufacturer has to bear for its disposal and recycling. This concept is intended to incentivise manufacturers to develop more environmentally friendly textile products, as they will then have lower disposal costs. Eco-modulation is an important step towards promoting sustainability in the textile industry and reducing waste.
Measures against illegal exports the and food waste
Another important objective of the EU textile strategy is to combat the illegal export of textile waste. To this end, clear criteria are defined to differentiate between reusable textiles and waste to ensure that textile waste is treated in an environmentally sound manner and is not exported to countries that are not equipped to deal with it.
The strategy also includes specific measures to reduce food waste, which are explained in more detail in a separate document.
Professional advice and support on the EPR for textiles
The EU textile strategy marks a decisive step towards a more sustainable textile industry. It strengthens producer responsibility, promotes the circular economy and actively combats the illegal export of waste. The next challenge now is to carefully monitor the implementation of this strategy and ensure that the textile industry actually becomes more sustainable. The harmonisation of extended producer responsibility in all Member States is a key building block on this path.
Although there is no European Textile Regulation yet, some European countries have taken the lead by taking the first steps and integrating the EPR for textiles into their national laws.
Are you a textile manufacturer and unsure in which European countries the EPR for textiles applies and what obligations you have to fulfil? We at Deutsche Recycling GmbH offer you our services. From compliance checks to the implementation of measures to comply with the EPR for textiles, we offer customised solutions and help companies to focus on their core business and avoid costly sanctions.