TALLINN – The Estonian government last week approved a proposal to increase the responsibility of the textile industry in the EU framework directive to reduce textile waste and its negative environmental impact, and also backed more specific targets to reduce food waste.
Minister of Climate Kristen Michal said in a press release that the changes will help save natural resources and boost Estonia's competitiveness.
"Estonia generates around 16,000 tons of textile waste every year, which is 17 kilos per person. Currently, only 22 percent of that is collected separately for re-use or recycling. The rest is incinerated, landfilled or sent to developing countries. Regulating the textiles industry will provide new business opportunities for companies and better quality, longer-lasting products for people," the minister said.
The amendment to the waste framework directive aims to introduce mandatory and harmonized producer responsibility schemes for textile products in all EU member states. This means that producers will have to bear the costs of textile waste management. The aim is to encourage them to produce less and items of better quality and to offer buyers both repair and maintenance options. Estonia, for its part, proposes to complement the initiative with regard to products that enter the EU through e-commerce and also proposes to centralize information on textile producers in a register on a common basis, so that data is comparable.
If the measures are implemented, the amount of textile waste is estimated to be reduced by 10 percent per year, reducing environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by around 3.9 million tons and underpinning the 'polluter pays' principle.
"It is no secret that the capacity to handle textiles, especially post-consumer textiles, is low in Europe as a whole. We are also facing this same problem, because in 2025 at the latest, textile waste will also have to be collected separately throughout Estonia. Bringing textiles into the producer responsibility system will help to create order in the system and bring more money to develop the solutions necessary for the collection and handling of textile waste," said Sigrid Soomlais, head of the circular economy department at the Ministry of Climate.
Besides textile waste, food waste is also a big problem. In Estonia, about 167,000 tons of food waste is generated per year, which is 127 kilos per person. Whereas in 2020, the share of food waste generated in homes was the largest, accounting for 48 percent of all food waste. The economic loss resulting from food loss in the entire food supply chain is estimated at 164 million euros per year.
Estonia proposes setting separate targets for reducing food waste in the trade and catering sector, and in households. The goal is to reduce food waste in these three sectors by 30 percent compared to the levels generated in 2020. However, Estonia does not support setting a separate target for reducing food waste in primary production and believes that the target set for the food industry is overly ambitious. It is important to consider the inevitable generation of food waste and keeping the proportion of food loss minimal.
Reducing and redistributing food waste would help to reduce not only waste generation but also land use, water consumption, nutrient loss, the use of chemicals, and the amount of fuel used to transport agricultural equipment and food. If the target is reached, it is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions in the EU could be reduced by between 16.5 and 62 million tons.
The member states of the European Union are expected to agree on a common position in June. Negotiations with the European Parliament will then begin.