Environmental Action Germany (DUH), Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), Zero Waste France, Changing Markets, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) have today criticised the progress made to be insufficient, stating that the carpet industry is stalling for time instead of developing efficient circular economy measures. Mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes at EU level are needed to push for a transition to a toxic-free circular economy in the carpet industry.
An estimated 1.6 million tonnes of carpet are disposed of in the EU annually, with the majority ending up in landfills and incinerators, leading to negative effects for our climate and health. To stop the waste of mostly virgin fossil-based plastics, serious recycling efforts have to be made to increase the current recycling rate for carpet, which stands at just three percent recycled. Overall, it is estimated that 65 percent of EU demand for carpets is fulfilled by EU-based manufacturing.
However, the sustainability promises made by European carpet manufacturers two years ago have not yet led to any significant improvement in the disposal practices of carpets. Neither the Circular Carpet Platform (CCP), launched by the carpet industry in cooperation with the European Commission in January 2018, nor the declaration of the Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) in September 2019 follow a comprehensive strategy in order to achieve closed-loop production. The declarations disregard requirements for eco-design and take-back-systems that are both conditions for recycling.
In order to achieve a real shift towards circular carpets, political framework conditions established by the EU are needed. By introducing an EU-wide EPR scheme with eco-modulation fees, carpet manufacturers would be encouraged to re-design their carpets to produce them toxic-free, reusable and fully recyclable. Manufacturers would also be urged to implement take-back systems. The new circular economy action plan will set a special focus on the circular design of products in resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, which include carpets.