Sustainability – legislation update for the footwear sector
Examining some legislation revisions that will affect the footwear industry in certain regions.
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As countries around the world look to tackle climate change, new legislation is being continually introduced that seeks to eliminate waste, facilitate a transition to a circular economy and ensure that consumers are provided with the information they need to make more sustainable decisions. This article looks in detail at some new and proposed legislation, including labelling requirements for footwear, textiles and packaging in France, and plastics packaging taxes in the UK and Europe, as well as the European Union’s Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, which was published earlier this year.
French AGEC law and ‘sorting labels’
In February 2020, France enacted a new law known as ‘Loi relative à la lute contre le gaspillage et a l’économie circulaire’ (AGEC), which contains new measures intended to eliminate waste and support the transition to a circular economy. Under article 17 of this law and decree number 2021-835, dated 29th June 2021, mandatory labelling requirements – known as ‘sorting labels’ – have been introduced that are applicable to any organisation placing footwear (and other items) onto the market in France. This is to ensure that consumers are provided with the necessary information at the point of purchase, so that they are able to take steps for appropriate disposal at the end of the life of these items.
There are two separate labelling requirements to consider for footwear – one for the footwear itself and another for its packaging. In both cases, companies have until 1st February 2023 to ensure that products and packaging are appropriately labelled (or 1st August 2023 for products that were either manufactured or imported into France before 1st February 2023).
The footwear labelling requirements in France are overseen by an eco-organisation called ‘Re_Fashion’ which represents the clothing, footwear and household textiles sectors. The default label option for footwear depicts the French ‘Triman’ logo alongside a clothing recycling bin. There are additional label options that also include donating goods to charities or utilising companies' take-back schemes.
The information must be provided to the consumer in one of the following ways: i) on the footwear itself – for example, in the form of a stitched-in label or printed directly onto the footwear, ii) on its packaging, such as a hang-tag, box end label or other sticker, or iii) on documents provided with the product.
There are clear guidelines for the design of the label. These directions include the colour, font and layout to be used, in addition to further text that is required if the item is only being placed onto the French market.
The household packaging scheme is managed by an organisation called CITEO. It requires that packaging is clearly labelled so that the consumer knows how to dispose of it. In the case of footwear packaging – paper, card or plastic – this would mean labelling the packaging to advise consumers to put it into a yellow sorting bin. The recycling centre will then decide if and how a particular item can be recycled.
The design of the label is similar to the footwear label, and incorporates the French Triman logo, pictograms of the packaging items and a recycling bin. The background of the label is yellow to match the colour of the sorting bin that the packaging item should be placed into (there is also a green sorting bin that is only used for glass bottles and jars). There are also clear guidelines for the packaging label regarding its colour, font and layout, as well as possible variations – depending on if the item is only intended for the French market or is also to be exported.
The legislation is very clear that in the case of footwear, two separate labels must be used, one for the footwear and one for the packaging. The two schemes described above are separate and distinct, and the information cannot be combined on one label.
UK plastics packaging tax
The United Kingdom ‘Plastics Packaging Tax’ came into effect on 1st April 2022 with the intention of incentivising the use of recycled material in plastic packaging. Any company importing more than the threshold of ten tonnes of plastic packaging or products contained in plastic packaging into the UK in a given year (or that manufactures more than ten tonnes of plastic packaging in the UK) must register for the Plastic Packaging Tax. The tax is then payable at a rate of GBP 200 per tonne for any plastic with less than 30 per cent recycled content, and applies to both petroleum-based materials and bio-plastics, including any compostable packaging.
Plastic is typically not a prevalent material used in the packaging of footwear so, for organisations focusing solely on footwear, it may not be a relevant consideration and any plastic packaging used may well not meet the ten-tonne threshold. However, for organisations selling different types of products, it will be important to ensure that data is captured for plastic packaging used for footwear – for example, plastic hangers and even bags used for e-commerce shipments to the end customer. It is also important to note that plastic packaging such as shrink wrap used as transport packaging on imported goods is exempt from the tax and does not need to be included in any calculations made.
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Equivalent taxes are also being planned in other countries. For example, Italy will introduce a tax of EUR 450 per tonne on virgin plastic manufactured in or imported into Italy, and Spain has proposed a tax of the same value per tonne on non-reusable plastic packaging.
Many organisations are already transitioning away from traditional plastic packaging, and the introduction of these taxes is likely to accelerate the change to more environmentally-friendly plastics or a move away from the use of plastic packaging entirely.
EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles
On 30th March 2022, the European Union published a communication titled EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, which aims to make sustainable products the norm in the EU and facilitate a transition to a circular economy. It refers to a textiles eco-system which incorporates the textile, clothing, leather and footwear industries.
The document highlights six key actions to be implemented:
- Introducing mandatory ‘eco design’ requirements – for example, durability and repairability of products, recyclability of materials and the elimination of hazardous substances. In line with this, work is ongoing on ‘Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules’ (PEFCR) for footwear and apparel, which are due for completion in 2024.
- Stopping the destruction of unsold or returned textiles – companies would be obliged to publicly disclose the number of products being discarded and destroyed, as well as introducing a ban on the destruction of products that remain unsold.
- Tackling microplastics pollution. This is more relevant for apparel from which microplastics are released during the washing process. However, these can also be shed from footwear.
- Introducing information requirements and a digital product passport based on mandatory information requirements on circularity and other key environmental aspects.
- Green claims – a recent review of sustainability claims in the textile, garment and footwear industry suggested that 39 per cent could be false or deceptive and a ‘Green Claims Initiative’ is expected to be published later this year detailing criteria for making environmental claims.
- Extended producer responsibility and boosting the reuse and recycling of textile waste.
The criteria of the voluntary EU Ecolabels for textiles and footwear are also being revised and are expected to be published in 2024.
How can we help?
As the amount of legislation relating to the sustainability of products is both increased and strengthened, the pressure on organisations to make sustainable products is going to intensify. Please email email@example.com to discuss how we can support you to design and make more sustainable products.
This article was originally published on page 30 of the July/August 2022 issue of SATRA Bulletin.