Zero Waste Europe: European Parliament makes textile polluters pay

The vote in the European Parliament yesterday signalled victory for lawmakers seeking to hold textile producers accountable to cover the costs for the waste their products generate.

MEPs supported the introduction of EPR for textiles across the EU, albeit the text lacks teeth since no concrete targets for waste prevention and management were introduced, according to the environmental network Zero Waste Europe.

The vote came as part of the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, the proposal tabled by the Commission in July 2023. Since then, the Parliament has only slightly increased the ambition of the file. One criticism made by Zero Waste Europe was the failure to introduce waste management and prevention targets, something the Parliament committed to in its resolution on the EU Textiles Strategy of 2023.

Theresa Mörsen, Waste & Resources Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe, states: “The result yesterday leaves a lot of room for improvement for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for textiles. Yes, we’re all for shorter transposition periods, but one key shortfall remains the total absence of targets for textile waste management and prevention. We know from experience that without targets, EPR schemes become little more than fees apparel giants are more than willing to pay to pollute. The delay in setting targets means that there will be little to no incentive for producers to invest in infrastructure for reuse and recycling. The Parliament’s commitment from last year to prevent waste seems to have been an empty promise.”

Zero Waste Europe welcomes improvements to the text, such as more frequent mixed waste surveys. “Gathering this data is a crucial step to understanding how much and which textiles end up in the mixed waste bin,” Mörsen continues. Moreover, the environmental network welcomes the new provision that products should be eco-modulated based on the number of items placed on the market, as well as the inclusion of plans to introduce EPR for bulky items such as mattresses and carpets from 2028.

Lastly, the Parliament has adopted a crucial measure urging Member States to implement a waste sorting system for municipal mixed waste. This initiative aims to prevent recyclable waste from being incinerated or disposed of in landfills.

Janek Vähk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager at Zero Waste Europe, states: “Mixed waste sorting minimises the amount of waste sent to incinerators or landfill. In fact, this simple measure would provide 10 million tonnes of feedstock for recycling. It’s a no-brainer. By encouraging Member States to implement pre-sorting of municipal mixed waste, we’re taking a crucial step towards more sustainable waste management, and we’re offering a business case to maximise recycling opportunities.”

Organic waste, including food waste, natural textiles, and paper, frequently ends up in residual waste streams. Sorting this waste would facilitate the biological stabilisation of organics, thereby preventing methane emissions from landfills. Such measures hold significant importance, especially in light of the continuous decarbonisation efforts within the EU economy. These efforts necessitate a progressive and consistent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, ultimately aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Zero Waste Europe counts on EU Member States to keep the ambitions high in the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, and calls for a more substantial review to become a priority during the next European mandate.


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