Today, Europe’s Environment Ministers voted on crucial EU laws addressing waste management [1] and green claims [2]. The Council’s position raises the bar on holding producers accountable for textile waste, but fails to adequately address Europe’s pressing food waste crisis, and leaves the door open for certain types of misleading green marketing, warns the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Member States voted on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, which sets the cornerstone for waste management across the EU, focusing on food and textile waste. Following the Commission’s proposal [3] in July 2023 and the Parliament’s position [4] in March 2024, Environment Ministers agreed today on binding reduction targets for food waste, and an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system for textiles.

Textile Waste

Production of textile fibres has doubled since 2000, and today 12.6 million tonnes of textile waste is generated annually in the EU. The setting of EPR schemes for textiles is part of a broader EU sustainability strategy for the sector.

Member States’ vote improves the Commission’s proposal by calling for EPR schemes to go beyond waste management and ensure brands are held financially accountable for the impact of overproduction.

EU governments recognised that fees paid into EPR schemes by brands should be based on the quantity of products placed on the market. With only a third of clothes being disposed of due to wear and tear, the Council has also called for EPR fees to consider the aggressive marketing and commercial practices that lead to overproduction and the premature disposal of clothing.

However, Member States postponed any consideration of textiles waste management targets until 2028, and failed to advocate for a clearer global accountability framework ensuring that EPR fees can effectively support regions heavily impacted by used textile exports from the EU.

Emily Macintosh, Senior Policy Officer for Textiles at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), welcomed the outcome of the vote: “We need policies that address overproduction head-on, going beyond waste management and product design tweaks. Ultimately, the problem is that too many products end up as waste shortly after hitting the market, and the fees holding producers accountable must reflect this.”

Food waste

Despite persistent warnings from civil society [5] and clear evidence [6] that more ambitious food waste reduction targets are feasible and beneficial from both an environmental and an economic perspective, Member States have opted for the lowest range of targets proposed by the Commission: a 30% reduction for consumption and a 10% reduction for food processing and manufacturing by 2030, using 2020 as baseline, or an earlier date if appropriate data is available.

However, the Council’s position leaves even more flexibility for Member States regarding the baseline year and introduces further uncertainties through correction factors for fluctuations in production volumes and tourism activities that still need to be defined in delegated acts.

Besides, the issue of food waste at the primary production level remains unaddressed, with further action depending on a study expected no earlier than the end of 2027. Environmental organisations call for a 50% reduction of food loss and waste across the entire supply chain, in line with the commitments made under the 2018 revision of the WFD, as well as under Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

Fynn Hauschke, Policy Officer on Circular Economy and Waste at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: “Today our governments missed another chance to tackle food waste from farm to fork. The low ambition level and neglect of losses at primary production undermine the efforts to solve Europe’s food waste crisis. With climate change threatening food production and families struggling to put food on the table, evidence shows halving food waste is not just feasible but essential for reducing emission and saving costs.” 

Green Claims

The Green Claims Directive aims to crack down on greenwashing by regulating how companies substantiate and communicate their green claims.

Following the heightened demand for eco-friendly products, 3 out of 4 products on the EU market come with a green claim [7], but more than half of these claims are vague, misleading, or unfounded, while almost half of the 230 ecolabels available in the EU have very weak or no verification procedures [8].

The law is meant to set stricter rules to back green claims and labels, and better governance processes for sustainability labels. However, the Council’s position is weaker than the Commission’s proposal [9] and the Parliament’s stance [10] on transparency and verification. The EEB is particularly concerned about the inclusion of a simplified verification procedure for certain claims which could rely on traders’ self-assessment instead of independent verification.

Besides, Member States voted for more flexibility for companies to communicate about their climate impact while relying on offsetting instead of real emissions reductions. In addition, the list of sanctions and penalties in case of non-compliance has been softened.

Miriam Thiemann, Policy Officer for Sustainable Consumption at the EEB, said: “Greenwashing is a widespread issue, and the devil is in the details. We need rules that ensure full transparency, independent verification, and adequate sanctions to deter misleading green marketing.” 

Both the Green Claims and Waste laws will undergo negotiations among the European Commission, Parliament and the Member States, likely to start in autumn.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITOR

[1] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2024/06/17/waste-framework-directive-council-set-to-start-talks-on-its-revision/

[2] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2024/06/17/green-claims-directive-council-ready-to-start-talks-with-the-european-parliament/

[3] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:05b634bd-1b4e-11ee-806b-01aa75ed71a1.0001.02/DOC_1&format=PDF

[4] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2024-0145_EN.pdf

[5] Joint letter to member states on food waste reduction targets (February 2024) ;  Joint letter to Belgian presidency on food waste reduction targets (June 2024)

[6] Policy briefing regarding the feasibility of ambitious legally binding EU food waste reduction targets (May 2024)

[7] https://commission.europa.eu/publications/environmental-claims-non-food-products_en

[8] https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/circular-economy/green-claims_en

[9] https://eeb.org/protecting-consumers-new-eu-laws-set-to-curtail-greenwashing-and-boost-repair/

[10] https://eeb.org/european-parliament-clamps-down-on-greenwashing-claims-and-labels/

Member States advance on textile waste, fall short on food waste and greenwashing
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