In a move aimed at reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices, European Union (EU) governments have agreed to ban the destruction of unsold textiles. The European Commission has identified the growing problem of unsold consumer products, especially textiles and footwear, which has been exacerbated by the rise of online sales.
According to a Reuters article, textile consumption in Europe is the fourth-largest contributor to environmental impact and climate change, following food, housing, and mobility. The EU discards approximately 5.8 million tonnes of textiles each year, amounting to about 11 kilograms (24 pounds) per person. A significant portion of these discarded textiles ends up in landfills or is incinerated.
To address this issue, EU governments and the European Parliament are working to implement the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation. The regulation, initially proposed by the European Commission in March 2022, requires mutual agreement and allows for the implementation of destruction bans following an assessment by the Commission.
However, EU governments have now decided to enforce an immediate ban on the destruction of unsold clothing, eliminating the need for a potentially lengthy assessment process by the EU executive, which could have taken up to three years. Medium-sized companies, employing fewer than 250 workers, will have a four-year transition period to comply, while the smallest companies, with fewer than 50 employees, will be exempt.
Sheng Lu, an associate professor in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware, commented that the new ban reflects the fashion industry’s trend towards more restrictive legislation to address its negative environmental impacts and promote sustainability. EU-based fashion companies are expected to expand their second-hand clothing business, increase the use of recycled textiles in their products, and offer services like apparel repair. The implications of the new rules on companies’ inventory management, sourcing practices, and discount strategies are also worth watching.
It is important to note that the fashion industry is global, and EU-specific legislation can have global implications. Ensuring a level playing field for apparel companies selling in the EU and those with a worldwide presence is crucial. The new legislation may also affect foreign investors’ interest in building textile recycling facilities in the EU or opening new retail stores. Supporting fashion companies during this transition, particularly in challenging economic times, will be essential.
Spain, set to assume the EU presidency in July, is expected to lead negotiations on the law alongside representatives from the European Parliament. While the Parliament’s position is yet to be established, there are indications of support for a ban on destroying unsold textiles and electronic appliances.
The proposed law also includes provisions for the creation of a “digital product passport.” This tool aims to provide consumers with comprehensive information about a product’s environmental sustainability, enabling them to make informed choices and contribute to a circular economy.
By implementing a ban on the destruction of unsold textiles, the EU takes a significant step towards reducing waste, conserving resources, and fostering a sustainable business environment