Circular Economy and Waste in the Fashion Industry
2. Garment Value Chain and Its Environmental Impact
3. The EU Legal Framework
4. Circular Fashion and Waste
The Extended Producer Responsibility
5. Final Remarks
Conflicts of Interest
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The term sustainability is very broad and covers economic, social and environmental aspects. Here we will refer in particular to environmental sustainability, that concerns all the actions that a company can undertake to reduce environmental impacts, such as use of organic fibres, recycled synthetic fibres or from renewable resources; reduction, re-use and recycling of resources (raw materials, energy, water) necessary at all stages of the product life cycle, from production to consumption; reducing the use of chemicals in the production process and their disposal; reduction of emissions of air pollutants and especially of greenhouse gases (carbon footprint); reduction of waste generation.
On the environmental impact of the fashion industry see also (Toprak and Anis 2017; Muthu 2014; Luz 2007; Kuik 2004–2005; Slater 2003).
More specifically on the impact of fast fashion see (Singh 2017; Anguelov 2016; Zerbo 2016; Li 2014; Turker and Altuntas 2014).
The average number of collections released by European apparel companies has more than doubled from 2000 to 2011, with some companies offering up to 16 collections, like H&M, or even 24, like Zara (Remy et al. 2016).
Value chains include “the full range of activities that firms and workers do to bring a product/good or service from its conception to its end use and beyond. This includes activities such as design, production, marketing, distribution and support to the final consumer” (www.globalvaluechains.org/concept-tools).
In this article fashion, textile and clothing industry will be considered together. However, for sake of clarity it is worth recalling that the textile industry is involved in the production of yarn, textiles and fabrics, thus including also household textiles and industrial textiles; the clothing/apparel/fashion industry more narrowly concerns the production and life cycle of garments; and the fashion industry can also include shoes, bags, jewelleries and other accessories see (Sajn 2019).
See the statement by the French Minister of the Environment, Brune Poirson, at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on 13th of May 2019: “Le secteur est le deuxième secteur industriel le plus polluant au monde. Il faut lui donner une direction”.
For some estimates see (European Commission Joint Research Center 2016; GFA 2017a, 2017b; WRAP 2017).
Recycling of pre-consumption textile materials (originating from waste and overproduction) or post-consumption textile materials (i.e., at the end of life cycle of the product) means any recovery operation by which these materials are inserted in a new production process, subject to adequate preparatory treatments; re-use means instead the operation by which fabrics and garments are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived, with a consequent extension of the life cycle of the product. See also the definitions of recycling and re-use in Article 3 of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
Regulation (EU) No. 1007/2011 on textile fiber names and related labelling and marking of the fiber composition of textile products.
Regulation (EC) No. 66/2010 on the EU Ecolabel.
New ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products were established in 2014 and for footwear in 2016 (See Commission Decision (EU) 2014/350 establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products; Commission Decision (EU) 2016/1349 establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for footwear).
The package comprised the Communication COM (2013) 196 final “Building the Single Market for Green Products” and the Recommendation 2013/179/EU on the use of common methods to measure and communicate the life cycle environmental performance of products and organizations.
Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency.
Regulation (EU) No. 528/2012 concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products Text with EEA relevance.
Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control).
Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
The waste hierarchy that apply as a priority order in waste prevention and management legislation and policy is the following: (a) prevention; (b) preparing for re-use; (c) recycling; (d) other recovery, e.g., energy recovery; and (e) disposal.
On EU waste law see among others (Van Calster 2015; Fischer 2011; Scotford 2009; Koch and Reese 2005).
114 definitions of circular economy were identified and codified already in 2017 (Kirchherr et al. 2017).
See whereas 40 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC: “Fostering a sustainable bio-economy can contribute to decreasing the Union’s dependence on imported raw materials. Bio-based recyclable products and compostable bio-degradable products could represent therefore an opportunity to stimulate further research and innovation and to substitute fossil fuel-based feedstock with renewable resources”. With regards to bioeconomy it is worth mentioning that the Europe’s Bioeconomy Strategy was launched in 2012 and updated in 2018 (European Commission 2018a). However, even though the Bioeconomy Strategy and the Action Plan for a Circular Economy have overlapping objectives and areas of intervention, where sustainability represents the core of both approaches, unfortunately they do not have connected policy agenda.
Actually it should be noted that various R frameworks have been used by scholars and practitioners, among which the 3R framework is the most prominent, while the 4R framework (reduce, re-use, recycle, recover) is at the core of the EU Waste Framework Directive (Kirchherr et al. 2017).
Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
New Article 11(1), Directive 2008/98/EC.
Whereas 41 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC.
New Article 11(6), Directive 2008/98/EC.
New Article 11(2), Directive 2008/98/EC.
New Article 5(5), Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste, modified by Directive (EU) 2018/850.
New Article 6(1), Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, modified by Directive (EU) 2018/852.
Article 3 n.1, Directive 2008/98/EC.
Most recently in relation to circular economy see (Turunen 2018).
See Article 1(1)(a) of Directive 75/442/EEC on waste: ”’waste’ means any substance or object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law in force”; and Article 1(1)(a) of Directive 2006/12/EC on waste: “‘waste’ shall mean any substance or object in the categories set out in Annex I which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”. On the definition of waste before the Directive 2008/98/EC entered into force see among others (de Sadeleer 2005a, 2005b; Krämer 2003; Cheyne 2002; Pike 2002; Purdue and van Rossem 1998).
See joined cases C-206/88 and C-20788, Vessoso and Zanetti,  ECR I-1461, paragraphs 7 and 13.
See case C-9/00, Palin Granit Oy and Vehmassalon kansanterveystyön kuntayhtymän hallitus,  ECR I-03533, paragraph 35.
See case C-/9/00 cit., paragraph 36.
As underlined by Communication COM (2014) 0398 “Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe”, at paragraph 2.1: “Some EU policies and instruments already provide tools and incentives in line with the circular economy model. The waste hierarchy that underlies our waste legislation is leading progressively to adoption of the preferred options of waste prevention, preparation for re-use and recycling, and discourages landfilling”.
See whereas 2 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC.
Whereas 16 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC. With regards to legal and theoretical approaches to industrial symbiosis as part of a circular economy see (Steenmans et al. 2017).
Article 5, Directive 2008/98/EC.
Whereas 17 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC.
In this perspective the new definition of “material recovery” plays a central role, as it aims at clearly distinguishing energy recovery from all other forms of recovery, including any recovery operation, other than energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or other means to generate energy. The definition furthermore specifies that it includes, inter alia, preparing for re-use, recycling and backfilling (new Article 3 n. 15a of Directive 2008/98/EC)
New Article 6(2) of Directive 2008/98/EC. This criteria shall include: “(a) permissible waste input material for the recovery operation; (b) allowed treatment processes and techniques; (c) quality criteria for end-of-waste materials resulting from the recovery operation in line with the applicable product standards, including limit values for pollutants where necessary; (d) requirements for management systems to demonstrate compliance with the end-of-waste criteria, including for quality control and self-monitoring, and accreditation, where appropriate; and (e) a requirement for a statement of conformity”.
Whereas 18 of Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC. It is worth recalling that since 2008, the Joint Research Center (JRC) has collaborated closely with Directorate General (DG) Environment in the implementation of the mechanism of end-of-waste criteria. In this context, the JRC carried out a scientific analysis of different waste streams that are candidates to being considered end-of-waste, including textiles, and developed a methodology for determining end-of-waste criteria, based on a number of case studies. See https://susproc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/activities/waste/index.html#.
New Article 6(3) and (4) of Directive 2008/98/EC. The original Article 6(4) provided that in case of lack of criteria at EU level, Member States may decide case by case whether certain waste has ceased to be waste taking into account the applicable case law, while now the reference to case law has been deleted. See also (Retail Forum for sustainability 2013). In general on end-of-waste regulation see among others (Turunen 2017; Brown 2014).
New Article 38(2) of Directive 2008/98/EC.
To this regard see (European Commission 2018b). In addition it is also worth recalling the judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (EUCJ) in the case Lapin elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskuksen liikenne ja infrastruktuuri -vastuualue v Lapin luonnonsuojelupiiri ry (Case C-358/11), where the Court considered the interaction of Waste Framework Directive and REACH Regulation for end-of-waste, affirming that hazardous waste may be returned as secondary raw materials, and that REACH may play an important role in this respect. See also (Alaranta and Turunen 2017).
In the 1990s, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched a reflection aimed at defining the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility and the conditions for its implementation which led to the publication in 2001 of a Guidance Manual for Governments on Extended Producer Responsibility (OECD, Guidance Manual for Governments on Extended Producer Responsibility, 2001), that was updated in September 2016 (OECD, Extended Producer Responsibility Updated Guidance for Efficient Waste Management, 2016). It seems appropriate to recall that the concept was defined for the first time in the early 1990s by Thomas Lindhqvist: see Thomas Lindhqvist and Karl Lidgren, “Modeller för förlängt producentansvar” (“Models for Extended Producer Responsibility,” in Swedish), 26 October, 1990, published by the Ministry of the Environment in “Från vaggan till graven—sex studier av varors miljöpåverken” (“From the Cradle to the Grave—six studies of the environmental impact of products,” in Swedish), DC 1991:0; in English (Lindhqvist 1992).
Directive 75/442/EEC on waste, as modified by Directive 91/156/EEC.
Directive 2000/53/CE on end-of life vehicles, Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators and Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Article 8 of Directive 2008/98/EC provided for the opportunity of introducing the extended producer responsibility, but in a very general manner, thus leaving much discretion to Member States.
Article 3(21) of Directive 2008/98/EC.
It is provided that where extended producer responsibility schemes are established Member States shall: define in a clear way the roles and responsibilities of all relevant actors involved; in line with the waste hierarchy, set waste management targets, aiming to attain at least the quantitative targets relevant for the extended producer responsibility scheme; ensure that a reporting system is in place; ensure equal treatment of producers of products regardless of their origin or size, without placing a disproportionate regulatory burden on producers.
See whereas 22 of Directive (EU) 2018/851.
See new Article 8a of Directive 2008/98/EC.
Article L. 541-10 code de l’environnement: “II. En application du principe de responsabilité élargie du producteur, il peut être fait obligation aux producteurs, importateurs et distributeurs de ces produits ou des éléments et matériaux entrant dans leur fabrication de pourvoir ou de contribuer à la prévention et à la gestion des déchets qui en proviennent”.
Article L. 541-10-3 code de l’environnement: “A compter du 1er janvier 2007, toutes les personnes physiques ou morales qui mettent sur le marché national à titre professionnel des produits textiles d’habillement, des chaussures ou du linge de maison neufs destinés aux ménages sont tenues de contribuer ou de pourvoir au recyclage et au traitement des déchets issus de ces produits”.
For an analysis of the French EPR system for textiles see (Billet 2008; Bukhari et al. 2018).
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Jacometti, V. Circular Economy and Waste in the Fashion Industry. Laws 2019, 8, 27. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040027
Jacometti V. Circular Economy and Waste in the Fashion Industry. Laws. 2019; 8(4):27. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040027Chicago/Turabian Style
Jacometti, Valentina. 2019. "Circular Economy and Waste in the Fashion Industry" Laws 8, no. 4: 27. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040027