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Footwear legislation – end of life responsibility

Explaining how changes within the laws of many countries will affect companies in the footwear supply chain.

by Nicola Pichel-Juan

Image © izusek |

There is now a limited window of opportunity for the world to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is required in order to minimise the increase in global average temperatures above the pre-industrial era and to mitigate the worst effects of climate changes. Many organisations and industries are already making huge progress in minimising their emissions. However, legislation will play a key role in forcing behaviour change and creating a level playing field where all organisations must take action.

The legislation landscape that businesses need to navigate is ever-changing, and it can be extremely challenging to keep up with – let alone stay ahead of – the myriad of different legal requirements that are ‘sustainability related’. Different countries are adopting a variety of approaches and, in some cases, requirements are not even standardised across the member states of the European Union.

In a series of articles about sustainability-related legislation, SATRA will cover key areas of which organisations within the footwear industry need to be aware. These are: i) end-of-life responsibility, ii) labelling and communication, iii) reporting and transparency, and iv) chemical compliance. In a final article, we will also look ahead to the relevant legislation which is likely to be implemented over the next few years.

Who is responsible?

Taking responsibility for the disposal or processing of an item at the end of its life is something that is increasingly being passed back to the organisation originally placing the item onto the market, in the form of ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) schemes. An organisation will typically have to report how many items it has placed onto the market in a given period and then pay a fee per item. The fees paid are then used to cover the costs of the infrastructure required to dispose of or recycle the item, to develop new recycling or reprocessing technologies, and to promote recycling and sustainable practices to consumers.

An EPR scheme was introduced in France during 2021 for clothing, footwear and household textiles (items such as tea towels and bed linen) as part of a new law called ‘Loi relative à la lute contre le gaspillage et a l’économie circulaire’ (AGEC). This aims to eliminate waste and support the goal of a transition to a circular economy.

Activities defined in the UK’s EPR for packaging

  • supplying packaged goods to the UK market under your own brand
  • placing goods into packaging that is unbranded when it is supplied
  • using transit packaging to protect goods during transport so that they can be sold to UK customers
  • importing products in packaging
  • owning an online marketplace
  • the hiring or loaning out of reusable packaging
  • supplying empty packaging.

Organisations placing these types of products onto the French market are obliged to register with the ‘ReFashion’ eco-organisation or implement their own system which must be approved by the French Ecology and Industry ministries. For 2023, the ReFashion scheme fees for footwear range from EUR 0.0307 for footwear for babies and children in European sizes 19 to 26 (roughly equivalent up to three years of age) up to EUR 0.1442 per pair for men’s boots in a European size 37 and upwards. Organisations placing fewer than 5,000 units onto the market can complete a simplified declaration and pay a flat-rate fee per pair. The fee is discounted for any products meeting specific ‘eco-criteria’ relating to durability, certification to certain eco-labelling schemes and recycled content.

An equivalent scheme is also in operation in France for any packaging that is destined to be disposed of by a household or the final consumer. This would include any footwear packaging such as shoeboxes and tissue paper used for wrapping/stuffing. The packaging scheme is managed by an organisation called CITEO and fees are paid according to the type of packaging and whether or not it can be recycled.

Liudmila Chernetska |

Companies may be charged a fee if they use any packaging that is destined to be disposed of by a household or the final consumer, such as shoeboxes and tissue paper

The UK’s ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) scheme for packaging came into force on 1st January 2023 and affects organisations meeting all of the following criteria: i) is an individual business, subsidiary or group, ii) has an annual turnover of GBP 1 million or more, iii) is responsible for over 25 tonnes of packaging in a calendar year, and iv) carries out any of the packaging activities as defined in the legislation.

UK legislation

Since 1st January 2023, small organisations (defined by the UK government as those with an annual turnover between GBP 1 million and GBP 2 million, responsible for handling and supplying more than 25 tonnes of empty packaging or packaged goods through the UK market, or with an annual turnover over GBP 1 million, responsible for handling and supplying between 25 tonnes and 50 tonnes of empty packaging or packaged goods through the UK market) have been obliged to record data about all such items. From January 2024, they will need to create an account with the environmental regulator, report the data collected once a year and pay an annual fee.

Large organisations (having an annual turnover of GBP 2 million or more and responsible for handling or supplying more than 50 tonnes of empty packaging and/or packaged goods in the UK) must register and start reporting from July 2023 and then report every six months thereafter. In addition to the fee paid to the environmental regulator, these companies must also purchase a ‘packaging waste recycling note’ (PRN) or ‘packaging waste export recycling note’ (PERN) to meet their obligations.

Many organisations will opt to work with a compliance scheme to support them in meeting their obligations, rather than engaging directly with the environmental regulator. Although the thresholds for the legislation in terms of turnover and volume of packaging are currently set quite high, smaller organisations may be indirectly affected as requests for information about type and weight of packaging could be pushed back down the supply chain from larger organisations.

Elsewhere in Europe

Another country with a focus on packaging is Germany, where the German Packaging Act (‘VerpackG’) came into force in 2019. This aims to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of packaging waste produced in Germany. Producers – defined as ‘the first entity to place packaging filled with goods onto the German market’ – must register with the central packaging register (Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister – ZSVR) and with a system, or waste management provider that collects, sorts and recycles packaging waste. Fees are paid according to the type and quantity of packaging placed onto the market. A similar scheme is in force in Sweden (Ordinance 2022:1274), which requires organisations placing packaging onto the Swedish market to register with and report information to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pay a fee to the EPA, and be affiliated with a suitable waste collection scheme.

andresr |

A number of countries have introduced legislation intended to increase recycling rates for packaging

The European Union’s ‘Packaging Levy’ requires all EU member states to contribute a fee of EUR 0.80 per tonne to a central fund for each kilogramme of residual non-recycled plastic packaging waste generated in a country. There are two different approaches being adopted across the various member states in response to the policy.

Firstly, member states pay the contribution directly from their own budget, regardless of whether or not they have implemented a system to collect the tax from individual organisations. Austria and Belgium have both adopted this strategy. Secondly, member states can implement their own system to collect the plastic tax directly. For instance, in Spain a fee of EUR 0.45 per kg must be paid by organisations per tonne of non-reusable plastic manufactured or imported into the country. A similar scheme is in operation in Italy, charged at the same rate for single-use plastic packaging items.

While plastic is not typically used in footwear packaging, organisations that also sell other items with single-use plastic packaging will need to consider any plastic footwear packaging that may be used. For example, this includes plastic hangers that are sometimes used for display purposes, or if the footwear is shipped and sold in plastic bags rather than boxes. However, many companies have already taken the decision to switch to fully recycled and recyclable plastic, or have eliminated its use in packaging altogether in order for their offerings to be more sustainable.

All the legislation discussed in this article is intended to minimise waste, encourage a transition to recycled and recyclable packaging, and to increase recycling rates of both packaging and finished goods. The funds raised through the schemes will support the development of these activities.

SATRA recommends that companies thoroughly check any legislative requirements for countries in which they operate or sell goods. Where necessary, the relevant organisations/bodies should be contacted for further clarification, or even legal advice be taken.

How can we help?

Please contact for assistance with product end-of-life legislation which will affect companies within the footwear industry.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 10 of the June 2023 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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