European Parliament takes on food and textile waste, but fails to meet scale of the crisis

Today, the European Parliament tackled food and textile waste by voting on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the adoption of stronger measures and increased ambition compared to the initial European Commission proposal but warns that efforts still fall short of addressing Europe’s food and textile waste crisis.

The Waste Framework Directive lays down the basic concepts and principles related to waste management. Last updated in 2018, the current revision focuses on food and textile waste. It introduces food waste reduction targets and a system of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for textiles.

Food waste

With today’s vote, Members of the European Parliament raised legally binding food waste reduction targets to 20% for the consumption level (retail, distribution, restaurants and food services as well as households) and to 40% for food processing and manufacturing – a 10% increase compared to the Commission’s proposal. The Parliament also mandates the Commission to assess separate targets for all primary production food waste by 2025, including mature food left unharvested or used on farms. However, this is not enough to meet the commitments made in the previous revision of the Waste Framework Directive and under Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce all food loss and waste by 50% along the entire supply chain – from farm to fork.

Fynn Hauschke, Policy Officer for Circular Economy & Waste at the EEB, said: “Today the Parliament acknowledged the need for more ambitious action on food waste, but the targets agreed fall short of addressing the magnitude of the challenge and honouring international commitments. At the same time, the Parliament failed to meaningfully take on food losses and waste at primary production. The agreement is a missed opportunity to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security and biodiversity.”

Textile waste

On textiles, the Parliament improved the Commission’s proposal by calling for products to be eco-modulated based on quantities — a first step towards leveraging EPR to curb overproduction.

Members of the Parliament have also beefed up the text by bringing footwear into the scope of fee modulation. The EEB welcomed moves to ensure online platforms do not sell products from unregistered companies, and that EU Member States will have to set up EPR schemes for carpets and mattresses too.

Emily Macintosh, Senior Policy Officer for Textiles at the EEB, said: “The Parliament voted to assess the possibility of setting 2032 textile waste reduction targets by 2025. While this is a significant improvement on the Commission proposal, it is still too vague and kicks the can too far down the road. MEPs also recognised the impact of shipping used textiles to third counties, but fell short of setting a real framework for global accountability to ensure financial support reaches the countries bearing the brunt of Europe’s overconsumption of textiles.”

Now the Parliament has agreed on its position, it is the turn of member states to negotiate their approach to the revision of the Waste Framework Directive. The file is on the agenda for the next Environment Council, scheduled for 25 March 2024.


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