The American Circular Textiles Group (ACT), a coalition of apparel brands, recommerce companies and recycling solution providers, is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include textile waste in its efforts to prevent plastic pollution, as part of a draft plan that was issued for review in April.
In a letter to the EPA, ACT director Rachel Kibbe proposed amending existing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws to include textiles, as well as a deposit system similar to bottles and cans to incentivize consumers to return used apparel and fund recycling programs.
EPR laws assign responsibility to manufacturers for product end of life, including contributing financially and engaging in operations to facilitate recycling and reuse. Earlier this year, California introduced the first EPR bill for textiles, while bills pending in Maryland and North Dakota would provide a tax exemption on the resale of used apparel.
“Federal policy could work to harmonize state laws with clear textile collection targets and carve out funds for textile reuse and recycling logistics, infrastructure and innovation, which will bolster efforts in combating plastic waste and promoting a circular economy,” Kibbe said in her letter to the EPA, in urging the amending of current EPR laws to include textiles, or creation of new ones.
Kibbe wrote that the EPA and other federal agencies could work with Congressional committees to pass bipartisan legislation that creates a “unified roadmap” for textile reuse and recycling solutions. “This approach will ensure consistency and accessibility while avoiding confusion arising from patchwork state and local laws,” she said.
According to a United Nations environmental report from 2019, about 60% of the material used to make apparel goods is plastic-based, including polyester, acrylic and nylon textiles. And an April 2023 ACT report on the opportunity for circular fashion said textile waste in the U.S. has grown by 80% since 2000, making it the nation’s fastest-growing waste stream. Also, more than 30 billion pounds of textile waste goes into landfills and incinerators annually.
Current members of ACT include retailers H&M and Reformation, recommerce platforms The RealReal, ThredUp, Arrive, Thrilling, Recurate and Fashionphile, apparel reverse logistics solutions De Brand and Super Circle and textile recycling provider Sortile.