European Commission Forecasts Sweeping Legislative Reforms in Circular Economy Action Plan and Forthcoming Strategy for Textiles #20


As part of the European Union’s (EU) Green Deal, the European Commission (Commission) announced the adoption of its updated Circular Economy Action Plan (Action Plan) on March 11, 2020.

As part of the European Union’s (EU) Green Deal, the European Commission (Commission) announced the adoption of its updated Circular Economy Action Plan (Action Plan) on March 11, 2020. Going well beyond existing EU legislation, the Action Plan is an ambitious and comprehensive look at the road ahead for the European economy, laying out the Commission’s “new EU industrial strategy” and goal to transition to “a sustainable economic system.” Sweeping in its reach, the Action Plan sets aggressive timelines for implementation within the next five years, prioritizing change for resource-intensive target sectors – including the textile industry. Its implementation will include the issuance of the EU Strategy for Textiles in 2021, which will outline the regulatory changes to come for the EU’s textile value chain, boosting circular practices from design to end-of-life.

Though neither are enforceable as law, the Action Plan and Strategy for Textiles are reliable roadmaps of impending legislation at EU and Member State levels, with significant implications for textile manufacturers invested in the European market. Moreover, they are indicative of larger global shifts towards circular practices across a variety of sectors that present meaningful opportunities for early adapters and valuable foresight into coming compliance challenges.

European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan

On December 11, 2019, the Commission issued the European Green Deal, setting forth the EU’s commitment to “tackling climate and environmental-related challenges[.]” As one of several initiatives in furtherance of the Green Deal, the Commission pledged to “mobili[ze] industry for a clean and circular economy,” by way of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.

The March 2020 Action Plan spells out the Commission’s approach for transforming the European economy in several ways – including implementing a sustainable product policy framework, encouraging consumer empowerment, and fostering circular production. The Commission is prioritizing implementation of the sustainable policy framework across “key product value chains,” including electronics and information and communications technology, textiles, furniture, and high impact intermediary products (steel, cement, chemicals), for which the Commission plans to take legislative action within the next three years. Under the sustainable product policy framework, forthcoming legislation will aim to address the following key areas:

  • Improving product lifespan, reusability, and reparability, while addressing the presence of hazardous chemicals and increasing energy and resource efficiency;

  • Increasing recycled content in products;

  • Enabling remanufacturing and high-quality recycling;

  • Reducing carbon and environmental footprints;

  • Restricting single-use products and countering premature obsolescence;

  • Banning the destruction of unsold durable goods;

  • Incentivizing product-as-a-service, where producers retain ownership and responsibility of a product throughout its life cycle;

  • Encouraging digitizing of product information, including through digital passports, tagging, and watermarks;

  • Rewarding products for sustainability performance, including offering incentives.
    Read here