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EU Decides on Fashion Waste Responsibility Extension

Last week in the European Union marked another significant legislative stride, alongside the adoption of the AI Act and an anti-greenwashing directive by the European Parliament. Last Wednesday, Parliament gave its nod to a proposed revision of the Waste Framework Directive, aimed at increasing accountability for manufacturers of clothing and footwear.

Under these amendments, the EU seeks to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, mandating that textile, clothing, and footwear makers cover costs associated with product collection, transportation, sorting for re-use or recycling, and support research and development for recycling enhancement.

Originally introduced in 2008 and updated in 2018, the Waste Framework Directive serves as the EU's legal framework for waste management. In July 2023, the European Commission proposed amendments to introduce mandatory and standardized EPR schemes for textiles across all member states. These regulations aim not only to foster sustainable textile waste management but also to incentivize manufacturers to minimize waste and enhance product recyclability from the outset.

On March 13, Parliament overwhelmingly supported the amendments, with 514 votes in favor, 20 against, and 91 abstentions. According to Parliament, member states must establish EPR schemes for textiles within 18 months of the Directive's entry into force, a timeline shorter than initially proposed by the European Commission. The new rules will encompass various products, including clothing, accessories, bedding, hats, footwear, and textiles containing related materials like leather or rubber.

In a breakdown of the proposed EPR schemes, Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys highlight key elements such as the obligations extending to textile producers, the establishment of national textile producer registers for monitoring compliance, designation of producer responsibility organizations, and cost calculation based on eco-design requirements.

The next step involves the Council of the European Union reviewing and potentially amending the Waste Framework Directive amendment, followed by further consideration by the new Parliament post the June 2024 European elections.

While lauded as a step toward prioritizing responsible consumption and production, the Directive faces criticism. Emily Macintosh, Senior Policy Officer for Textiles at the European Environmental Bureau, notes that while the vote signals progress, it lacks specificity, particularly in setting tangible textile waste reduction targets and establishing global accountability frameworks to address Europe's overconsumption impact on other nations.

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