Separate textile collections key to tackling clothing waste, says Ellen MacArthur Foundation

A comprehensive circular economy approach, extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, and separate textile collections are key to helping meet the challenge of clothing waste, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has claimed.

According to the foundation, every second there are enough garments thrown away to fill a rubbish truck, with less than 1% recycled into new clothes.

In a report called Pushing the boundaries of EPR policy for textiles, the foundation advocates that a circular approach should be adopted by economies around the world.

The report said “In a circular economy, textile products are used more, made to be made again, and made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs. In this system, businesses contribute to supporting infrastructure commensurately with what they place on the market, to ensure their products are collected and reused, repaired, remade, or recycled into new textile products.”

The report also pushes for separate textile collections, which it says must be improved, “scaled up dramatically” and implemented in locations where they don’t exist.

It said: “Where separate collection systems exist today, they are underdeveloped and do not capture all textiles placed on the market. Because of their potential market value, textiles deemed rewearable, and therefore suitable for reuse, are prioritised for collection in today’s system.

“After collection and sorting, reusable textiles are traded around the world. While such reuse exports lead to increased value capture and utilisation of clothing, they also cause a disproportionate waste management burden on importing countries, which often lack the infrastructure to manage clothing when it is no longer reusable.

The report lays out why regulations on EPR, under which responsibility lies with producers for collection, sorting and recirculation of their products, are key to building a circular economy for textiles. It said EPR should be extended beyond recycling to drive circular design and other areas.

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It said: “EPR policy places responsibility on producers with regard to the collection, sorting, and recirculation of the products they place on the market, resulting in funding that is dedicated, ongoing, and sufficient to manage textile products when they are discarded.

“Without EPR policy, the collection, reuse, and recycling of textiles is unlikely to be meaningfully scaled and tens of millions of tonnes of textiles will continue to be landfilled, incinerated, or will leak into the environment every year.

“In a world of finite resources, EPR policy helps create new sectors and employment dedicated to reverse cycle activities, such as collection, sorting, reuse, repair, and recycling. As such, it can help shift the economic balance away from the production of new products and materials.”

Last month, data giant Kantar became a partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as part of its bid to become a world-leading circular economy expert.

Circular economyClimate crisisEnergyInnovationNet zeroPolicySocial sustainability

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