Revision to Waste Framework Directive sets out EPR for textiles

The European Commission's revision to the Waste Framework Directive brings significant changes to the forefront of waste management across the continent. With the proposed introduction of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for textiles and footwear, alongside food waste reduction measures, with an obligation to separately collect textiles by 2025.

EPR of Textiles included in revision of Waste Framework Directive

The fashion industry, known for its substantial environmental footprint, is poised for a major shift. Under the proposed EPR scheme, producers will bear the costs associated with the collection, treatment, and disposal of their products once they become waste. This is expected to incentivise producers to design products that are easier to recycle, thereby reducing waste and promoting a circular economy. The costs of collection and treatment are estimated to equate to approximately €0.12 per item, a cost that will be internalised in the price of new products.

The extended producer responsibility framework. They will be required to register with relevant authorities, maintain records of their products, report on their waste management activities, and contribute to the achievement of the waste reduction targets set by the EU. By establishing a robust regulatory framework, the revision aims to ensure transparency, accountability, and effective waste management practices throughout the textile industry.

The revised Directive also introduces measures to prevent food waste generation at all stages of the supply chain, from primary production to households. It sets an ambitious target to reduce the generation of food waste in processing and manufacturing by 10 per cent by 2030.

To achieve the reduction target, the directive proposes a range of measures that encourage behavioural change, enhance efficiency, and foster collaboration across the food supply chain. These measures include:

1. The revision recognises the importance of raising awareness and promoting behavioural change among stakeholders. It calls for the development and support of interventions that encourage responsible food consumption and waste reduction practices.

2. The proposed directive aims to identify and address inefficiencies at each stage of the food supply chain. This includes promoting cooperation and coordination among all actors involved while ensuring a fair distribution of costs and benefits.

3. To reduce food waste, the revision encourages food donation and redistribution, prioritising human consumption over other uses such as animal feed or non-food products. This promotes a circular approach, ensuring that edible food is maximally utilised before it becomes waste.

4. Recognizing the importance of knowledge and skills, the proposed directive supports training and skills development initiatives. This ensures that stakeholders, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, have access to the necessary resources and expertise to implement effective food waste prevention measures.

By implementing these measures, the revision aims to create a paradigm shift in the food industry. It recognises that the prevention of food waste requires collaborative efforts, shared responsibility, and a comprehensive approach that engages all actors involved.

The European Commission sought input from various stakeholders, including industry representatives, environmental organisations, consumer groups, and relevant authorities during consultation on the revision. In addition to these, detailed impact assessments were conducted to evaluate the potential consequences and benefits of different policy options. The assessments examined the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the proposed measures, taking into account factors such as resource efficiency, job creation, public health, and the overall transition towards a circular economy.

‘A Missed Opportunity’

Brussels-based environmental NGO, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), has expressed disappointment with the proposed revision to the Waste Framework Directive, referring to it as a missed opportunity to address key issues in the waste sector. While the NGO welcomes the introduction of EU-wide food waste reduction targets, it believes that these targets fall short of the commitments made under Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.

Theresa Mörsen, Waste & Resources Policy Officer at ZWE, emphasised the need for stronger food waste reduction targets, stating, "We sincerely hope that this target will be strengthened during the negotiations to include a 50 per cent reduction by 2030 from farm to fork."

Mörsen also expressed concern that the proposed targets primarily focus on retail and consumers, letting production and processing businesses off the hook. She further regretted that primary production was excluded entirely, despite being a significant contributor to food losses and waste.

Regarding the proposed EPR for textiles, ZWE sees it as a positive step toward holding producers accountable. However, the NGO highlights the unnecessarily long transition period of thirty months, during which significant amounts of textiles will continue to be incinerated. Additionally, the revision does not go far enough in reshaping the rules for EPR, particularly in addressing issues related to eco-modulated fees and the governance of Producer Responsibility Organisations.

Zero Waste Europe emphasises the importance of waste prevention targets and the need to address the environmental impact of the textile industry at the production phase.

Janek Vähk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager at Zero Waste Europe, underlined the insufficient progress made by the EU in achieving a circular economy and called for essential measures such as residual waste targets and mandatory sorting of waste that is not separately collected.

The NGO further stressed the urgency of optimising organics separate collection and the establishment of quantitative targets for reuse and waste reduction. They see these measures as crucial for meeting recycling targets and driving advancements toward a circular economy.

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