EU proposes ban on throwing away textiles and footwear

06 March 2024 18:04

Politics

Brussels - European retailers, brands, and others often throw away returned, unsold, or unused clothing and shoes rather than find new ways to sell, recycle, or reuse them. Now European officials have proposed a ban on that practice in order to create a new circular economy in what is now fashionable waste.

Aiming to advance circular economies and reduce the extraction of raw materials, European leaders have proposed a ban on destroying textiles and footwear.

“Textile product destruction, where products are destroyed by retailers, brands, or manufacturers before use, is an example of a resource ‘take-make-waste’ approach, highlighting the inefficiency of current linear production-consumption systems,” said the European Environment Agency, or EEA, in a March 4 briefing.

Retailers today try to resell their unused clothes to other stores or discount outlets. But the process can be expensive. “Product return processes are complex, usually span different locations, and can take weeks to complete,” EEA experts wrote. “This complexity has a significant impact on resale potential — especially for seasonal and fast fashion products — and could lead to significant reductions of the original selling price (markdowns).”

This dynamic leads to waste. European brands, retailers, and others destroy as much as 9 percent of textile products annually – or 594,000 tonnes – before they are used, according to the EEA. On average, one-third of all garments bought online that are returned are destroyed. Approximately 20 percent of garments that remain unsold are also destroyed.

“The destruction of customer returns and unsold textiles have direct environmental and climate impacts,” the briefing said, citing emissions from handling returns, the destruction itself, and the indirect impacts from the items’ original production.

The proposed ban would prohibit European Union member states from throwing away returned, unsold, or never-used garments and shoes. The measure is designed to create incentives to recycle and reuse products that will give rise to new markets for goods that are now thrown in landfills. ce/jd

Previous newsletters