End to Incinerating Unsold Apparel?

As the European Union closes in on passing the new Ecodesign Regulation into law, on May 22 its member states agreed to ban the destruction of unsold clothing.

As part of the European Union’s continued efforts to improve its green competitive advantage and commitment to reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, member states have backed a proposed ban on the destruction of unsold textiles.

The textile industry accounts for a fifth of the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the rise of online shopping being a major contributing factor. Almost 6 million tons (around 11kg per person) of clothing, shoes and accessories are discarded annually in the EU, with only a quarter of that figure being recycled according to European Commission estimates. Items returned to stores by shoppers are complex and costly to process, so often end up in landfill or being incinerated.

An initial proposal for the updated Ecodesign regulation was put forward by the European Commission in March last year, noting that “the destruction of unsold consumer products, such as textiles and footwear” has become “a widespread environmental problem.” However, the commission did not specifically ban the destruction of unsold textiles, instead imposing a requirement on large companies to report quantities of discarded stock, with bans to be determined following an assessment period that could last up to three years. This latest move by EU governments would see destruction bans applied immediately to companies with more than 250 employees, with medium-sized companies allowed a transition period of four years, and those with fewer than 50 employees exempt from the bans.

While immediately implementing the bans would accelerate the EU’s efforts to curb waste and reduce its environmental impact, some industry leaders and politicians have expressed concern that too much environmental regulation risks stifling European economies, and that the cost of recycling or processing textile waste could push up prices for consumers. However, one German MEP Delara Burkhardt, had this to say in support of the legislation:

“Consumers alone cannot reform the global textile sector through their purchasing habits. If we allow the market to self-regulate, we leave the doors open for a fast fashion model that exploits people and the planet’s resources. The EU must legally oblige manufacturers and large fashion companies to operate more sustainably. People and the planet are more important than the textile industry’s profits.”

Though member states are urged to implement this ban immediately, the proposed regulations will now have to be agreed by the European Parliament before they can become law.


Photo: Unsplash


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