What role has been the law playing in textile-apparel waste management?

Textiles are the products manufactured by a mix of different fibres in varying proportions. Among the three broad categories of textiles are apparel, home furnishing and industrial productions.

Textile manufacturing industry and consumer market observe the processes of raw materials extraction, factory space allocation, production, disposal of produced waste materials, marketing, transportation, consumption and dumping after use. There are billions of global users of textiles. While most of them are thrifty by nature, a large portion still remains as a waste after their utility has been consumed. This blog will be focused on the textile-apparel waste and its management.

The reasons behind the ever-increasing amount of textile-apparel waste is the decreasing production costs, mass production, fast fashion, and consumer affordability. 

Why is textile-apparel waste an issue? How are they causing damage to our environment? What are the alternatives for their disposal? Has the law been doing enough to manage such wastes?

Problems Caused

  • Half a million tonnes of microfiber pollution which can be credited to the clothing line giants get dumped in the oceans. Microfibre pollution is caused by the wear and tear of clothes. 
  • Low cost of apparel generated by fast fashion accelerates easier and faster disposability in consumers which adds to the volume of wastes.
  • ‘United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashion and SDGs’ has discovered that in the span of 2000 to 2014 AD, average clothing customers bought 60% more items than compared to 15 years ago. And now, such purchases do not even last as long as they used to.
  • The World Economic Forum’s report for the year 2021 has indicated that fashion and its supply chain is third in line after the food and construction industry when it comes to being the largest source of pollution in the world.
  • China has been found to annually discharge over 2.5 billion tonnes of wastewater out of which the textile industry is in the top 3 water-wasting industries.
  • A Fibersort report says that North-West Europe alone produces 4,700 kilo tonnes of post-consumer textile and apparel waste per year with a recycling rate of just 1 percent.

International Initiatives

  • In 2018, the UN and allied agencies launched ‘Alliance for Sustainable Fashion’, an initiative looking to add to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through cooperation from the fashion sector. ‘SDGs for Better Fashion’ was the result that addressed SDG number 4, 9, 12 and 13 to reduce social and environmental impacts from the fashion industry.
  • The UN further has ‘One Planet Network’ and the ‘Environment Programme Circularity Platform’ as established initiatives for the planet’s conservation.
  • Although the European Union (EU) does not have any particular textile waste prevention plan in place, most member states have put forward waste management programmes following the mandate from the ‘Waste Framework Directive 2008’. 

Approaches in Other Statesv

  • France is the only state holding the producers responsible for the end-of-use clothing with ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) Policy to manage textile waste.
  • Germany has implemented ‘Circular Economy and Waste Management Law’ to avoid generating recycled final disposal.
  • Tokyo has been trying to realise the ‘Zero Waste City’ project with Japanese enterprises trying to not generate waste in the first place.
  • America has also brought the policy of ‘Zero Landfill’ which is a concept of doing away with wastes not by adding it to the landfill mass. She aims to achieve it by 2037 AD.
  • ‘China Waste Import Requirement’ strictly prohibits textile waste from entering the country.
  • South Korea’s ‘Green Growth Act’ stipulates that businesses should work incorporating the ‘Environmental Management System’ (EMS) within their strategies.
  • Belgium, Germany and Slovakia are the countries that have now recognized the textile waste in their waste prevention programmes which had been absent in the past.
  • Austria, Czechia and Greece are amongst the nations raising information and awareness programs about textile wastes and the possibility of their recycling.
  • Sweden, Belgium , Bulgaria and Denmark have reduced tax policies on repair costs of textiles and for setting up small textile businesses so that the labour body is more incentivised in working around the possible waste deposits. 
  • Iceland, Denmark and Norway are found shifting the focus to reduced use of harmful chemical substances and promotion of eco-friendly materials in the manufacturing process so that the resulting waste is not hazardous but easily manageable.
  • Netherlands has implemented the idea of ‘Circular Economy’ signing agreements with 30 denim companies to emphasise the use of recycled materials.

Laws in Nepal 

Nepal does not have laws that exactly target the ‘textile-apparel’ waste. However, following legislations are in place to mitigate and manage solid waste and to preserve the environment. There are a few theoretical bases but not sufficient machinery for practicality. Amendments to these laws introducing newer policies being implemented worldwide and even stricter dedication to implement them will be enough for the textile-apparel waste management.

  • Article 30 of the Constitution of Nepal 2072 guarantees ‘Right to Clean Environment’ as a fundamental right. Textile-apparel waste causing hazards to our environment is a violation of our right and can be addressed through the way of writ petition being specific to the polluter.
  • Section 112 of the Country Criminal Code 2074 pronounces it a crime to pollute the environment by ways of generation, transmission, release and stockpiling of wastages. 
  • Solid Waste Management Act 2068 (2011)
  • Solid Waste Management Rules 2070 (2013)
  • Environmental Protection Act 2076 (2019)
  • Local Self Governance Act 2074 (2017)


Global apparel market is an important contributor to the world’s Gross Domestic Product but it is also imaging itself as a great contributor of pollution. The environment is suffocating and the textile-apparel waste is one of the many reasons. There are ways to combat it of course, if we are determined and coordinated enough.

The main barriers to such waste management is lack of proper techniques, equipment and above all, lack of consumer awareness on the downsides of fast fashion and on the value creation of recycling and upcycling processes. 

Fast fashion needs to be discouraged and the brands working on initiatives to conserve resources should be subsidised and endorsed more. Textile wastes should be collected separately just like we separate biodegradable and nonbiodegradable wastes. The technique of 5R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Refuse) should be most effective. Reducing our utility consumption to an extent that is just enough is the most important individualistic approach towards lessening the environmental waste. A little effort to understand the circular economy will  make us take waste products as valuable resources.

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