Is the EU’s ban on the destruction of unsold clothing good for the planet?

2023 11 20T193423Z 668977346 RC2SE4AKC7X3 RTRMADP 3 CAMBODIA GARMENTS BRICKS
Waste from international clothing brands is stored before being used to fuel kilns at a brick factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 17, 2023. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

The European Union has approved a prohibition on the disposal of unsold clothing. In addition to this, new regulations aim to enhance the environmental friendliness of products and facilitate easier repair and recycling of goods.

The Arguments

The advocates for the legislation underlined the need to move away from the detrimental “take, make, dispose” model for the planet, health, and the economy. The legislation proposes designing new products in a manner that benefits all, prioritizes environmental protection, and respects the planet.

Additionally, the Commission gains authority to extend the ban to other unsold products beyond clothing and footwear. Although specific requirements for individual products are pending official approval from the parliament and member states, it is expected that the European Commission will enforce binding regulations to enhance the environmental friendliness of items such as furniture, tyres, detergents, paints, and chemicals.

The Facts

On Tuesday, negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states reached a consensus to prevent large retail groups from discarding unsold clothes and footwear. The objective of these rules is to address the negative impacts of “fast fashion” and curb waste.

The ban, primarily targeting major businesses, is set to take effect after a two-year period, with specific exceptions for small companies and a transitional span of six years for medium-sized enterprises. This agreement is part of a broader initiative following proposed changes to the European Commission’s ecodesign rules, aiming to enhance product durability and facilitate reuse, repair, and recycling to decrease resource consumption like energy and water.

Also, products are mandated to include a “digital product passport,” potentially a QR code, enabling consumers to make informed choices about their purchases. The regulation will extend to various raw materials like iron, steel, and aluminium in the future, with planned exceptions for items like cars and military products.

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