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[Textile industry] ESPR - How the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation will impact apparel and footwear brands

Explore how the European Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) will change sustainability standards in the apparel and footwear industries. This comprehensive guide delves into the ESPR's impact on textiles, from defining eco-design principles to outlining information and reporting requirements.

Published on

Mar 10, 2024

Written by

Lidia Lüttin

Category

Policies and Regulations

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In December 2023, a provisional political agreement was reached on the European Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). The rollout of this regulation holds substantial implications for the fashion and textile industries, prompting a closer examination of how the ESPR will impact sustainability standards within our sector.

This article provides a detailed exploration of the ESPR, shedding light on the tangible effects it will have on textiles and the evolving regulatory landscape for fashion.

For an overview of all European textile regulations, such as the Corporate Social Sustainability directive, visit our textile regulations hub.

What is the ESPR?

 The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) was proposed in March 2022 by the European Commission and expands upon the existing Ecodesign Directive. Its overarching goal is to reduce the environmental impact of products throughout their lifecycle. By emphasizing circular economy principles, the ESPR aims to encourage the creation of products that are more durable and easier to repair, reuse, and recycle. It’s expected to make a tangible impact on the fashion industry’s environmental footprint, which is responsible for nearly 10% of all human-made carbon emissions.

In addition to establishing minimum requirements for physical performance, the ESPR also introduces the Digital Product Passport (DPP). 

 We’ll get into how and when brands should comply, but first, let’s explore how the ESPR defines “eco-design.”

What is ecodesign?

Ecodesign refers to the integration of environmental considerations into a product’s design process to reduce the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycle.

For apparel and textile brands, the most notable requirements include:

  • Durability: Designing products to last longer, reducing the frequency of replacements. Practically, this means companies will need to assess the product's guaranteed lifetime, technical lifetime, average time between product failures, resistance to stress, and aging mechanisms.
  • Reusability & Reparability: Developing a product design that allows for repeated use and includes components that can be easily repaired or replaced. For example, companies should measure factors such as the availability and delivery time of spare parts, modularity, as well as the compatibility of their product with commonly available spare parts. Additionally, the availability of repair and maintenance instructions, use of standard components, and ease of non-destructive disassembly and reassembly will be important factors.
  • Recycled Content: Encouraging the use of recycled materials in product manufacturing. We expect there to be minimum requirements for the quantity of recycled content in a product.
  • Possibility of Recycling: Designing products to be easily recyclable at the end of their life. Recycling textiles remains a challenge for the industry, so the ESPR aims to address this head on. There will likely be requirements for the utilization of easily recyclable materials, safe and easy access to recyclable components, material composition and homogeneity, and the possibility for high-purity sorting. 
  • Presence of Substances of Concern: Avoiding or minimizing the use of hazardous or toxic materials. The European Commission will determine which substances should be considered for each of the different ecodesign requirements, such as substances that hinder recycling or re-use.
  • Energy & Water Efficiency: Promoting energy and water-efficient manufacturing or other processes in the product life cycle.
  • Carbon and Environmental Footprints: Assessing and reducing the overall carbon emissions and environmental impact of products. 

What are the ESPR information and reporting requirements?

The ESPR emphasizes information requirements to enhance transparency and sustainability in product design and manufacturing. One significant aspect of this framework is the introduction of the Digital Product Passport (DPP), which serves as a comprehensive digital record for important, product-related information. Once the ESPR is adopted, companies must make their products’ DPPs accessible on their website.

The European Commission is establishing a dedicated web portal where all digital product passports will be registered. The data carrier present on products linking to the Digital Product Passport is still to be decided by the Commission and is expected to be known for textiles by the end of 2025.

Think of the DPP as a "digital twin" for your products. Leveraging a data carrier like a QR code, the DPP will include essential information about a product's environmental and sustainability characteristics, including details about materials used, recyclability, and repairability. Secondary legislation by the Commission will determine who may develop DPPs in the future.

You can read our complete deep dive on the Digital Product Passport requirements here.

 In addition to the Digital Product Passport, the ESPR will prioritize sector-specific reporting requirements. We expect that the DPP for textiles will need to include a repairability or durability score, details on the carbon or environmental footprint, a notice on substances of concern, and instructions on disassembly, reuse, refurbishment, and recycling.

The ESPR legal framework also introduces disclosure obligations for the number and weight of unsold goods for the previous financial year and the percentage of the quantity of those products sent to recycling, disposal, donation, etc. The reporting obligations will apply to all sectors and products 12 months after the publication of the ESPR text in the Official Journal for the EU.

The ESPR bans the destruction of unsold footwear and textiles

Yes, you read that right. The December 2023 provisional agreement introduced a ban on the disposal of unsold consumer textiles, apparel, and footwear items. This is a direct move to reduce textile waste, which adds up to nearly 100 million tons per year.

The text's definition of “destruction” includes the last three stages in the Waste Hierarchy. This includes recycling operations. In other words, destroying or recycling unsold pre-consumer apparel and footwear items, including returned products, will be banned.

The timeline for medium-sized enterprises regarding the prohibition of destroying unsold consumer products is defined to start 4 years after the entry into force of the regulation. This requirement will apply to medium-sized enterprises to enhance transparency and encourage sustainable practices, including the disclosure of information related to the destruction of unsold consumer products. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), however, are exempt from certain obligations to prevent undue burden on these smaller entities. See here the EU company size definitions.

Additional exemptions to destruction are available in cases of:

  • Health, hygiene, and safety concerns
  • Damage to products that cannot be repaired in a cost-effective manner
  • Refusal of products for donation, re-use, or remanufacturing
  • Destroying the product has the least negative environmental impact
  • Unsellable products due to infringement of intellectual property rights, and counterfeits
  • A product is deemed unfit for its intended purpose

 What’s the timeline for the ESPR?

The ESPR is a market-entry regulation and will apply to nearly every product that is sold on the EU market, regardless of where your brand is located. Initially, it only impacts large and medium-sized enterprises, but the inclusion of small businesses will be reevaluated in the future.

It is expected that the ESPR proposal will be adopted by the European Parliament in Q1 of 2024 (the plenary vote of the parliament is scheduled for March 11th, 2024), therefore we expect the ESPR to enter force by the end of June 2024. From there, the first working plan for priority products—most likely including textiles—will be published within nine months.

Negotiations continue for the ESPR Delegated Act concerning textiles, which will establish tailored market-entry requirements for the textile sector. The drafting process for the textile sector's Delegated Act is ongoing, aiming for publication by the end of 2025. Once an act is published, brands will have 18 months to prepare before the requirements enter into force.

Overall, full compliance with ESPR requirements, including the delegated act for textiles, is anticipated for mid-2028.

As you can see, this process is rapidly evolving. Subscribe to our LinkedIn Newsletter to stay up-to-date on how the ESPR will impact your brand.

How to prepare for the ESPR

Fashion and textile brands can best prepare for the implementation of the ESPR by adopting a proactive approach to eco-design. Conducting thorough assessments of your product lines can help identify areas of improvement in terms of ecodesign and assist with reporting.  

Carbonfact is a sustainability reporting platform, tailored to the needs of apparel, footwear and textile companies that enables fashion brands to perform life cycle assessments (LCA) for their products more quickly and easily, allowing them to measure and simulate their product's carbon footprint in real-time.

Carbonfact provides fashion brands with the tools they need to incorporate carbon impact into the design process from the beginning, allowing them to estimate, simulate, and incorporate carbon impact in the earliest stages of the design and sourcing processes.

 

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