Sustainability Blog

Circularization on Circularity: The EU Sustainable Products Initiative

By Apurva Gosalia - Apr 06, 2022

Consumers in the European Union are to be better informed about the sustainability of the products they use and protected against future greenwashing. To achieve this, the EU Commission – the bloc’s executive branch – presented on Wednesday last week a package of European Green Deal proposals to boost circular business models, empower consumers for the green transition and make sustainable products the norm across the EU, encapsulated as the Sustainable Products Initiative.

According to the proposed initiative, products on the EU market should also become more durable throughout their life cycle or be able to be repaired, reused or recycled. The current Ecodesign Directive only stipulates requirements for reparability and durability for a handful of products, such as some white goods, televisions, lighting and motors. In the future, Ecodesign will also cover textiles, furniture, steel, cement and chemicals, perhaps also lubricants.

As announced in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission has thereby proposed new rules to make almost all physical goods on the EU market more environmentally friendly, recyclable and energy efficient throughout their life cycle, from design through daily use to disposal or repurposing. The specifications from the regulation should lead to better durability, interchangeability of individual parts and reparability. In addition, the use of recycled materials, and thus recycling as a whole, will be strengthened. The requirements of the Ecodesign Directive were not that specific until now.

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“It is high time we put an end to the throwaway society model that is so damaging to our planet, our health and our economy. Today’s proposals ensure that only the most sustainable products are available in Europe,” said the Commission’s Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans. “This will allow consumers to reduce their energy consumption and have broken products repaired instead of replaced.”

The proposal for an Ecodesign Regulation for sustainable products is about product design, which accounts for up to 80% of a product’s environmental impact during its life cycle. It includes new requirements to ensure that products are more sustainable and reliable, as well as reusable, upgradable and repairable, easier to maintain, refurbish or recycle, and energy- and resource-efficient. In addition, product-specific information requirements ensure that environmental impacts are clearly identifiable. 

>Read more about the European Union’s sustainability policies here.

All products covered by the regulation will have digital product passports. This will make it easier to repair or recycle products and easier to trace substances of concern along the supply chain. Labeling can also be introduced. The proposal also includes measures to end the destruction of unsold consumer products, as well as to expand green public procurement and incentivize sustainable products.

The proposal now presented expands the existing Ecodesign Directive in two ways. First, the framework is intended to cover as wide a range of products as possible, and second, the scope of the requirements that products must meet is to be expanded. For example, minimum criteria are now set not only for energy efficiency, but also for the circular economy and a general reduction in the environmental and climate footprint of products.

Germany’s Federal Consumer State Secretary Christiane Rohleder said, “Sustainable products should be the standard in the EU in the future. Resources are finite. Therefore, products must become more durable and better repairable … Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine makes saving resources and energy even more urgent. Therefore, we support the high requirements for Ecodesign proposed by the EU Commission.”

The draft for the Sustainable Products Initiative will now be discussed among. They will then go through the trilogue process before the EU Commission can publish them.

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European Green Deal: a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making the EU climate neutral in 2050.
Ecodesign Directive: the existing framework to set mandatory ecological requirements for 40 energy-using and energy-related product groups sold in the EU.
Sustainable Products Initiative: the initiative to revise the Ecodesign Directive and propose additional legislative measures as appropriate, which aim to make products on the EU market more sustainable.
Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation: a proposed regulation to expand the existing Ecodesign Directive and was published March 30, 2022.
Circular Economy Action Plan: a collection of 54 legislative and non-legislative actions aimed to move Europe’s economy from a wasteful linear economy to a more sustainable circular model, as well as four legislative proposals on waste. The plan was adopted in 2015 and was completed in 2020.
Trilogue: informal tripartite meetings on proposals between representatives from the European Parliament, Council and Commission.

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