Retail and Consumer

EPR for textiles: what's on the horizon in the UK and EU?

Published on 7th May 2024

EU legislation to introduce extended producer responsibility is progressing and will mark a huge change for retailers

Close up of people in a meeting, hands holding pens and going over papers

An amendment to the EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) is currently making its way through the legislative process. Once adopted, this will introduce new measures to support the circular economy and reduce waste from textiles in the EU. As drafted, Member States will introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes for textile waste. This will be a huge step change for retailers. In the meantime, the UK has the issue of textile waste on its radar but is yet to put its plans into action.

EPR in the EU

One of the key provisions set out in the amendment to the WFD is the introduction of EPR for textiles. EPR follows the "polluter pays principle", placing 100% of the net cost of managing textiles waste on one member of the supply chain (usually, the importer into the EU or brand owner).

An EPR scheme will hold companies accountable for the costs associated with separate collection, sorting and recycling of textiles. The fees that producers pay is determined through "eco-modulation", meaning that they will be adjusted based on the environmental performance of textiles they place on the market.  

The rules are designed to cover a broad range of textile products, including clothing, accessories, blankets, bed linen, curtains, hats, footwear, mattresses and carpets. They will extend to products that contain textile-related materials such as leather, composition leather, rubber or plastic.

In the latest development, the European Parliament adopted its final position on 13 March 2024. On EPR, the Parliament agrees with the European Commission's proposal to introduce the scheme, but reduced the period afforded to Member States to establish EPR schemes from 30 months, as proposed by the Commission, to 18 months from the date the amendment comes into force. A final draft of the new rules is expected later this year.

UK position

The UK government's policy paper, titled "Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste," was published in July 2023. This paper outlined the government's plans for textiles and emphasised that reducing textile waste aligns with the UK's net-zero commitments. The government aims to consult in 2024 to explore measures such as requiring businesses above a certain size to establish customer take-back systems for used textiles. The paper also highlights that an industry-led pilot to develop EPR for textiles will be carried out in collaboration with trade bodies such as the UK Fashion and Textiles Association, the British Fashion Council and the British Retail Consortium. However, as of now, no significant progress on either the consultation or pilot has been made.

Considering the delay in the implementation of EPR for packaging until 2025, it is unlikely that EPR for textiles will be introduced in the near future.

Osborne Clarke comment

While we are awaiting the Council of the EU's position on the amended directive, both the Commission's proposals and Parliament's position make it clear that EPR for textile waste will soon become a reality in the EU. This is reinforced by the fact that EPR schemes are already planned for other areas such as batteries and packaging, demonstrating the EU's commitment to implementing EPR for specific products. As the amendment is still in its early stages, the exact timeline for the introduction of these schemes is yet to be confirmed but a final draft is expected later this year.

The UK is still in the process of formulating concrete plans. Businesses should keep an eye out for the publication of the consultation to which they may wish to respond.

Given the emphasis on tackling textile waste through initiatives like EPR for textiles in both the EU and UK, businesses in the textiles and fashion industry should consider embracing circular business models and preparing for EPR. This entails adopting practices such as repair, resale, rental, and upcycling, which will help extend the lifespan of products and ultimately reduce textile waste, aligning with sustainability goals in the EU and the UK.

To prepare for EPR, businesses will need to have the ability to collate large volumes of data on the textiles they place on the market and have good visibility of their supply chain and the material composition of its textiles, as these will feed into their costs under a future EPR scheme.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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