Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) stands out as a long-standing policy with its first concept dating back to the 1980s. It has gained renewed attention in the context of the "Circular Economy Package" from 2018. This package emphasized the need to strengthen the EPR system and establish methods for managing specific waste categories, including textiles. Furthermore, other legislative measures, such as the waste directive, which mandates separate textile waste collection by 2025, have spurred the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden to establish new or revised EPR schemes for textiles.
Fashion companies have traditionally focused solely on bringing textiles to market, neglecting their involvement in post-consumer waste management and recycling. This has led to a situation where valuable textile waste remains underutilized, the durability and recyclability of garments are not prioritized, and manufacturers are not sufficiently incentivized to reduce their environmental footprint. EPR, a broad concept encompassing various strategies, places the responsibility on producers to manage the entire lifecycle of their products, from design to end-of-life management, which includes waste collection and recycling. It's important to view EPR as a guiding principle rather than a detailed action plan. Specific requirements are tailored to each country and include product fees, minimum recycled content standards, carbon footprint reporting, and performance criteria.
The specifics of EPR schemes for textiles varies from one country to another. For instance, in the Netherlands, brands introducing textile products into the market are required to pay a fee, which is intended to be reinvested in systems for recycling and reusing textiles. Companies are expected to register with a designated organization. In France, producers must obtain a 'UDI' number to demonstrate registration with an eco-organization and facilitate compliance monitoring. A contribution amount is determined for each product based on several factors such as the quantity of similar products sold in the previous year. Norway and Sweden will enforce EPR for textiles in the near future. Notably, the cost of implementing the Swedish EPR for textiles is projected to increase the price of an average t-shirt by approximately 3 cents. Norway is considering significant fees for products made with synthetic fibers, encouraging manufacturers to explore more sustainable raw materials.