Peter Buttiens, CEO of the European Specialist Printing Manufacturers Association (ESMA), sums up the latest EU regulations critical to the industry. The aim of these statutes is to increase circularity, recycling and sustainable production.

Member states of the European Union generate 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste every year. Clothing and footwear alone account for 5.2 million tonnes – equivalent to 12 kg of waste per person each year. Currently, only 22% of post-consumer textile waste is collected separately for re-use or recycling, while the remainder is often incinerated or landfilled.

Every second, in Europe, a full rubbish truck of clothing is burned or dumped. And, every year, an estimated maximum of 32 million unsold and returned garments are destroyed. Europe has been wanting to reduce this gigantic waste for some time. To this end, EU members and the European Parliament reached an agreement through the launch of a new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). The aim of this ‘ecodesign law’ is to make products repairable, re-usable and recyclable. It exists in combination with a Digital Product Passport (DPP) and a ban on destruction of unused goods.


The primary aim is that, by 2030, the new sustainable products framework will lead to 132 millions tonnes of oil equivalent of primary energy savings. This corresponds to 150 billion m3 of natural gas.

The proposal establishes a framework to set ecodesign requirements for specific product groups. It will significantly improve circularity, energy performance and other environmental and sustainable aspects. Additionally, the proposal will enable the setting of performance and information requirements for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market. These include durability, re-usability, upgradability and repairability of products, and the presence of substances that inhibit circularity. In addition, energy and resource efficiency, recycled content, remanufacturing and recycling will be needed. Furthermore, carbon and environmental footprints and information requirements (including a Digital Product Passport) will be essential.


Looking more closely into the circular economy for textiles, the focus lies on taking responsibility to reduce, re-use and recycle textile waste. It also falls on boosting markets for used textiles. With the extended producer responsibility (EPR) directive, the EU is proposing to make producers responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products. Supporting the sustainable management of textile waste across the community will be included. This initiative will accelerate the development of the separate collection, sorting, re-use and recycling sector for textiles in the EU, in line with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. Increasing the availability of used textiles is expected to create local jobs and save money for consumers, while alleviating the impacts of textile production on natural resources.

The Commission aims to introduce mandatory and harmonised EPR schemes for textiles throughout the EU. These schemes have already been successful in improving the management of waste from products, such as packaging, batteries and electric or electronic equipment. Producers will cover the costs of the management of textile waste, giving them the incentive to reduce waste and increase circularity. In other words, designing better products from the start (ESPR). How much producers pay to the EPR scheme will be adjusted based on the environmental performance of textiles – a principle known as ‘eco-modulation’.

From 2025, common EU EPR rules will also make it easier for member states to implement the requirement to collect textiles separately, in line with current legislation. The producers’ contributions will finance investments into separate collection, sorting, re-use and recycling capacities. The proposed rules on waste management aim to ensure that used textiles are sorted for re-use and what cannot be re-used is directed to recycling as a priority. Social enterprises, active in the collection and treatment of textiles, will benefit from increased business opportunities and a bigger market for second-hand textiles.

The current proposal will also promote research and development into innovative technologies for the circularity of the textiles sector, such as fibre-to-fibre recycling. Furthermore, it will address the issue of illegal exports of textile waste to countries ill-equipped to manage it. The new law would clarify what constitutes waste and what is considered re-usable textiles, to stop the practice of waste exports disguised as re-use. This will complement measures under the proposal for a new regulation on waste shipments, ensuring that shipments of textile waste only take place when there are guarantees that the waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner.



The Digital Product Passport (DPP), announced by the European Commission, is one part of the scheduled ESPR and a key part of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). The intent of the DPP is to enable sharing of key, product-related information essential for the sustainability and circularity of products. This is all done to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, boosting material and energy efficiency, extending products’ lifetimes and optimising product design, manufacturing, use and end-of-life handling.

The idea behind this initiative is that the Digital Product Passport should provide a pathway for a slow, but necessary, implementation of a DPP in at least three of the initiative’s key markets in 2024. Textiles is presently reported as one of the three markets.

It is believed that the Digital Product Passport will provide new business opportunities to economic actors through circular-value retention and optimisation. For example, product-as-a-service activities, improved repair, servicing, remanufacturing and recycling, will be based on improved access to data. These opportunities will aim to support consumers to make sustainable choices as well as allowing authorities to verify compliance with legal obligations.

The Digital Product Passport can provide a comprehensive digital record of each textile product, detailing its journey from raw materials to finished garments. This level of transparency will empower consumers to make informed choices. It will also encourage them to support brands that prioritise ethical sourcing, responsible manufacturing practices and environmental stewardship.

Furthermore, the DPP focuses on the implementation of circular-economy principles within the textile industry. By accurately tracing the origin and composition of each textile product, it becomes easier to establish efficient recycling and upcycling processes.

Textile waste can be significantly reduced as the Digital Product Passport aims to ensure that discarded clothing can be properly sorted and channelled back into the production cycle. This shift towards circularity not only minimises environmental impact, but also presents economic opportunities. These possibilities will create new avenues for innovation and job creation. 

A DPP’s basic requirements must be connected with a data carrier and provide a unique product identifier. The carriers should be visible on the product or packaging. 


A Digital Product Passport should include essential details to identify the product, such as a unique identifier, brand, model and description. It should also display the names and locations of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors involved in the production process. Another aspect is the materials and components used in the product, its composition, origin and environmental impact.

This may include information on the presence of hazardous substances or any environmentally friendly materials. Energy efficiency and product lifecycle could also be outlined, including insights into manufacturing processes, packaging details, transportation and disposal methods. Evidence of the product’s repairability, durability and availability of spare parts, is an important factor. End-of-life information should outline the product’s recyclability, disassembly instructions and guidance on proper disposal or recycling methods. Digital services together with updates should remain current. Finally, any relevant certifications and eco- or other sustainable labels, associated with the product should also be displayed.

EU Waste hierarchy

ESMA: Connecting the Dots of the Printing Industry

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Peter Buttiens [ESMA General Manager]

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