Leaked EU Green Claims legislation signals start of “crackdown” despite omitting textile industry downcycling
15 Mar 2023 --- A leaked draft of the European Commission’s (EC) Green Claims legislation, designed to combat greenwashing, is expected to raise litigation against packaging companies using vague, impartial and misleading advertising.
However, the draft also appears to omit pledges made by the EC to prevent the textiles industry from using recycled PET (rPET) in fabric production – something industry bodies say poses a serious threat to circularity and fundamentally undermines the fight against greenwashing.
The Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) says the regulation, which is expected to be finalized and published on March 22, says EU packaging players will soon face international pressure on their marketing strategies.
George Harding-Rolls, a campaign manager at CMF, tells PackagingInsights he expects businesses buying packaging “will be putting a lot more pressure on their suppliers to justify their claims and possibly will go into ‘greenhushing’ mode to avoid the risk of misleading claims.”
“Currently, most countries have some sort of consumer protection laws in place to cover misleading green claims, so there can, and have been cases brought against companies for packaging so far,” he explains.
“Litigation would be the next step on, with national authorities getting new powers to do so should a company drag its heels on changing its marketing. I believe it would be helpful for the industry to see a major case or two on greenwashing in the packaging sector to spur others into action.”
“The industry needs to see that the authorities mean business on this.”
The fight for rPET
Despite CMF welcoming additional pressure against the packaging industry, the organization also highlights that the EC’s draft excludes rules against fashion companies using rPET from the packaging industry to make advertisements claiming the use of recycled content.
Last year, UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe decried the fact that bottling companies receive only roughly 30% of rPET on the market, despite contributing 70%. This situation is largely due to lucrative fashion brands buying up supplies, which are then converted into garments, which CMF says is a form of downcycling as most wasted textiles are landfilled.
Nicholas Hodac, director general of UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, says, “We prefer not commenting on leaked versions, but we do believe that the Green Claims proposal should indeed address the so-called ‘sustainability claims’ being made by the textile industry on using PET bottles.”
“This practice is not circular. It’s nothing but the downcycling of high-quality food-grade beverage bottles, which can then no longer be recovered and recycled back into new beverage bottles due to changes in its material properties.”
In September, the association said that textile purchases of rPET had made the material’s price “as expensive as gold or white truffles.”
This month, a letter to the EC signed by UNESDA and CMF stressed the issue of prioritizing bottle-to-bottle recycling and fiber-to-fiber recycling as separate mechanisms, asserting that downcycling PET threatens packaging circularity, particularly for SMEs.
Harding-Rolls speculates that the omission of regulations against these issues could be due to textile industry lobbying.
“The political parties that table the amendments to water down the Textiles Strategy in this regard could have been influenced by multiple lobbies,” he says.
“It seems most plausible that recyclers of bottles into fiber, or even groups representing the textile industry itself, could be behind this. We have been part of a group of NGOs and industry bodies pushing back against these amendments.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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