Extended Producer Responsibility

Unravelling sustainability laws in fashion part 1

In collaboration with Otrium, we’re launching a series of blog posts aimed at simplifying the newest and forthcoming laws and legislation around sustainability in the fashion industry. These posts will also contain guidance to help fashion brands comply with these policies.

First up, it’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). What is it, and why do fashion brands need to know about it?

EPR Otrium Sustainalize

EPR - an explanation

Broadly speaking, EPR is a waste management concept aimed at reducing pollution and landfill use, while increasing recycling rates. In fashion industry-specific terms, it’s a policy whereby brands bear a significant degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of everything they produce, taking the whole life-cycle of garments and accessories into account.

It’s not a new idea – it was first introduced over 30 years ago – but the importance of developing more circular systems for dealing with all textiles is becoming ever more apparent. EPR is intended to reimagine how every company and organisation sources and uses their materials, plus how they dispose of and reuse them.

What EPR would mean

The results of introducing an EPR policy could:

  • Incentivise eco-friendly design – in every stage, from concept and materials to packaging
  • Improve sustainability in both production and consumption – as brands are obligated to take over the practicalities of waste collection and recycling
  • Reduce the amount of products sent to landfill – as brands develop better circular systems for recycling and reusing materials

Currently, the EU’s only mandatory EPR is in France. But several European countries are investigating similar schemes for textiles including the Netherlands and Sweden. The European Commission is considering EPR as a general regulatory measure to promote sustainable textiles and better recycling for textile waste. The UK government has also committed to review and consult on an EPR scheme. Over in the US, various charities and coalitions are lobbying policymakers to make EPR a reality there too. It’s not clear whether any of these will become mandatory, or even coordinated across countries. Either way, EPR and everything it potentially involves is an important consideration for everyone in the fashion industry.

EPR in France

France’s EPR policy was introduced in 2007 and passed into law to cover end-of-use clothing, linen, and shoes in January 2020. The policy is governed by Refashion (formerly Eco TLC), an accredited non-profit organisation, which represents 95% of the French textile industry and is responsible for the collection, recycling, and recovery of used textiles. The destruction of unsold textile products is forbidden under law.

France’s target for 2022 is to collect 50% of all the textiles put on the market, and from this collection, reach 95% of reuse or recycling of textiles, and a maximum of 2% waste. Policymakers have also implemented an extension of circularity on transparency of the production, as well as the bonuses and penalties paid by the manufacturers and information on potentially dangerous substances.

EPR in The Netherlands

The Netherlands has a draft regulation that focuses on garments and home textiles.
All producers in the Netherlands, as well as external producers who market within the country (including ecommerce), need to appoint a legal entity to carry out the EPR.

By 2025, municipalities will have to collect textiles separately.

The Dutch government has a target for 2025 that 50% of textile products should be recycled or reused. Producers are obligated to report their figures annually. By 2030, this target will increase to 75%. The estimated cost of waste management for producers is €0.09 to €0.28 per kilogram of textile.

EPR in Sweden

Sweden introduced an EPR for textiles from 1 January 2022. It will be phased in over several years with licensed textile collections starting on 1st January 2024. It’s hoped that from 2028 onwards, at least 90% of the textile waste collected by the new system will be reused or sent for material recovery. Sweden’s target by 2028 is to reduce the average amount of textile sent to landfill by 70%.

How to prepare for EPR

While the whole industry waits to find out whether these potential EPR regulations will be set in stone, there are two different initiatives that brands can consider implementing to get ahead of the pack.

1. Develop a Digital Product Passport (DPP)

A DPP is a QR code, hardware tag or similar, which provides digital information and data about a product. One initiative of note is the new CircularID Protocol by Eon, a global identification system for apparel products, developed by leading fashion brands, retailers, and other stakeholders.

There are other pilot DPP projects in the works, from the EC itself, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, IBM and the Aura Blockchain Consortium. The first step before engaging with any of these pilot DPP projects, of course, is for brands to align their products and processes with current standards.

2. Develop and integrate an EPR-friendly business model

Integrating a circular system within a business strategy is a must for fashion brands in 2022 and beyond. Many brands have been pioneering solutions to integrate, reuse and recycle in their production. There are a few different but relevant business models here:

  • In-house recycling:
    Customers bring back old clothes in exchange for a discount coupon. The garments brought back are divided into three categories: recycle (shredded into textile fibre), resale (via the secondhand clothing market) and restyle (fabrics are used to make new clothing or accessories. H&M has a successful program for this model, launched back in 2013.

  • Online marketplaces:
    Apps and websites for individuals and small businesses to buy and sell small runs and second hand garments, and engage in collaborative consumption. ASOS Marketplace is a great example of a clothing brand and retailer branching out in this way.

  • Eco-design:
    Working sustainability into new designs and product lines. Brands of all sizes now have programs entirely aimed at reducing the environmental impact of their products. On Earth Day last year, Adidas launched their Ultra Boost “Made to be Remade” trainers. They’re totally recyclable, made to be returned to Adidas at the end of their life, to be remade into a new pair of shoes. Outdoor brand Decathlon uses 39 million discarded plastic bottles each year to create hiking fleeces made of recycled polyester.

  • Luxury second hand retail:
    In 2019, the clothing resale industry grew 25 times faster than the wider retail industry and is expected to overtake traditional thrifting and charity donations by 2024. Retailers can jump on board by setting up platforms offering affordable second hand designer brands. Online luxury fashion site Farfetch does this with their pre-loved designer bags section.
Authors

Marit Luijckx

Former colleague, Sustainalize

Aurélia Bichet

Aurélia Bichet

Intern, Sustainalize

In collaboration with Otrium.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our colleagues if you need any help or assistance in the process.

Published on: 4 May 2022

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