EU approves ban on destruction of unsold clothing

The EU has approved a ban on the destruction of unsold clothing. New rules will also ensure products are more environmentally friendly and that goods are also more easily repaired and recycled

Chile’s Atacama Desert, a vast dump yard for used and unused clothes from around the world (Photo: Getty Images)
Chile’s Atacama Desert, a vast dump yard for used and unused clothes from around the world (Photo: Getty Images)


Negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states on Tuesday, 5 December reached an agreement to stop large retail groups of destroying unsold clothes and footwear.

The rules are aimed at cracking down on the impact of "fast fashion" and reducing waste. 

What we know about the ban 

Brussels is seeking to address textile consumption in Europe, which has the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change after food, housing and transport.

Although the ban in principle will begin after two years for large businesses, exceptions have been agreed for small companies, as well as a transitional period of six years for medium-sized companies. 

The latest agreement comes as part of a wider initiative after the European Commission proposed changes to the bloc's so-called eco-design rules.

This would make products longer-lasting and easier to reuse, repair and recycle, reducing the consumption of resources such as energy and water.

MEP Alessandra Moretti, who spearheaded the legislation through parliament, said: "It is time to end the model of 'take, make, dispose' that is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy." 

"New products will be designed in a way that benefits all, respects our planet and protects the environment."

The Commission will also have the power to widen the ban to other unsold products beyond clothing and footwear.

What other materials might be effected?

Full details of requirements for individual products have not yet been finalized with parliament and member states still needing to officially approve the agreement, although that this is believed to be a formality. 

The agreement outlined that the European Commission can issue legally binding requirements to make goods such as furniture, tyres, detergents, paints and chemicals more environmentally friendly. 

Goods must also be sold with a "digital product passport", which could be a QR code, in order to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases.

However, numerous raw materials such as iron, steel and aluminium are also to be regulated accordingly in future. Exceptions are planned for goods such as cars and military products. 

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Published: 06 Dec 2023, 10:59 AM