The EEA briefing ‘Management of used and waste textiles in Europe’s circular economy’ shows the current state of textile waste generation, collection systems, treatment capacity and the different classifications for used textiles in Europe.

According to the EEA estimate, around 16 kg of textile waste per person was generated in the EU in 2020. Only about one quarter of this amount (4.4 kg) was collected separately for reuse and recycling, but the rest ended up in mixed household waste. Of all textile waste, 82% came from consumers and the rest was waste from manufacturing or textiles that were never sold. 

The EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) mandates Member States to have separate collection systems for used textiles from next year. The European Commission has also proposed a targeted revision of the WFD to introduce mandatory Extender Producer Responsibility for textiles in all Member States to make producers responsible for the full life cycle of textile products, from their design to waste management. The Commission proposal is also introducing separate collection rules for textiles and sorting requirements for used textiles shipment.

Management of used and waste textiles in Europe’s circular economy

Management of used and waste textiles in Europe’s circular economy

According to a survey conducted by the EEA in 2023, most EU Member States already had separate collection systems in place but mostly to capture reusable textiles. The EEA report warns that, besides separate collection, sorting and recycling capacities need to be scaled up in Europe to avoid that collected textiles end up in incinerators, landfills, or are exported to regions outside the EU.

There is also a need to harmonise definitions and reporting practices on used and waste textiles. This is also clearly shown in the data collected by the EEA that shows wide discrepancies due to the differing interpretations of what constitutes waste and what constitutes used textiles.

The EEA has previously published several assessments addressing textiles in Europe’s circular economy, including on the destruction of returned and unsold textiles, textiles and the environmentdesign for circularitymicroplastic from textiles consumptionexports of used textiles, and bio-based textiles.

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Last modified: May 31, 2024