Edition: International | Greek
MENU

Home » Europe

Product design policy will be key to circular economy, EU says

As the European Union seeks to transition to a ‘circular economy’, the policy focus in 2021 will turn to products: how they are designed, and why so many seem to be made to throw away

By: EBR - Posted: Friday, December 18, 2020

The European Commission wants to transform the way we produce and consume products. And when an initial strategy to do so wasn’t delivering as much as hoped, the EU executive gave it another shot earlier this year.
The European Commission wants to transform the way we produce and consume products. And when an initial strategy to do so wasn’t delivering as much as hoped, the EU executive gave it another shot earlier this year.

by Dave Keating

As the European Union seeks to transition to a ‘circular economy’, the policy focus in 2021 will turn to products: how they are designed, and why so many seem to be made to throw away.

The European Commission wants to transform the way we produce and consume products. And when an initial strategy to do so wasn’t delivering as much as hoped, the EU executive gave it another shot earlier this year.

The ‘Circular Economy action plan 2.0’, unveiled in March, is a renewed attempt to change the way we produce, use and dispose of goods. Like its predecessor launched five years ago, it doesn’t contain hard legislation yet but instead sets a series of goals, like halving municipal waste by 2030, some of which will be translated later on in hard legal requirements.

Main ideas include giving consumers a new “right to repair” for computers and smartphones, establishing green criteria for construction products, updating existing resource use indicators, and planning a Sustainable Product Policy Framework.

Speaking at a EURACTIV event last week, Paola Migliorini, a senior official at the European Commission’s environment department, gave details about how the EU executive will roll out policy in the course of 2021.

“The commission wants to come forward with what we call a sustainable product policy framework,” she said. “It will be made up of a series of initiatives and legislation, and in the main bulk of the legislative proposal we are planning to present toward the end of 2021 the Sustainable Products Initiative, which will expand the scope of the Ecodesign Directive.”

Speakers at the EURACTIV event applauded the Commission’s intention to put the Ecodesign Directive at the centre of the EU’s sustainable product policy.

“80% of environmental challenges originate at the design phase,” said Justin Wilkes, executive director of ECOS, an environmental organisation dedicated to standardisation.

“That’s why ecodesign, as a proven effective tool from an economic, consumer, and environmental perspective, can be used not only for energy-related products but across other sectors. So I think it’s very valuable that the Commission has proposed to expand the Ecodesign Directive.”

Among industry, many actually share that view. Lynette Chung is chief sustainability officer at German chemical firm Covestro: “A value chain perspective here is essential, because it will be different depending on where our materials go in,” she said. “We see a sustainable product policy as an opportunity for us to bring forward even more solutions to the market.”

But Migliorini said that the new framework isn’t going to be based solely on the Ecodesign Directive. The Sustainable Products Policy will be linked intimately with another proposal due to come out in mid 2021, which “will empower consumers by providing more information to them and establishing a right to repair”.

Another legislative proposal will address false green claims. “It will provide tools for companies to indicate the environmental footprint of their product and inform consumers about the benchmark of the footprint of the product they are about to purchase.” Together, Migliorini said, this package of proposals will be the tools that can deliver the targets envisioned in the Circular Economy Action Plan.

In the European Parliament, many lawmakers have welcomed the Commission’s focus on product design, said Jessica Polfjard, a Swedish centre-right MEP affiliated to the European People’s Party (EPP).

However, she said that new waste and recycling targets due to come out next year will need to take conditions on the ground into account. “We need ambitious targets that are based on realities and the diversity in different European economies,” she stressed.

The European Parliament is likely to call for EU targets for the use of recycled raw materials in new products – particularly in packaging. Dutch centrist MEP Jan Huitema, who is in charge of the circular economy action plan in the Parliament, told EURACTIV earlier this month that “products need to have a mandatory amount of recycled material, so that increases the demand for secondary raw materials.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Migliorini said the Commission was indeed considering to impose mandatory targets for recycled materials in packaging.

“We will look into some of the targets. We will have hopefully some elements that will make recycled content mandatory, and some of the targets for this.”

That public consultation will be open until 6 January.

*first published in: www.euractiv.com

READ ALSO

EU Actually

Will the Green Deal cause food shortages?

N. Peter KramerBy: N. Peter Kramer

The green sustainability plans of the European Commission are increasingly criticised in the European Parliament, who fear that the Green Deal will cause food shortages in the EU

View 04/2020 2020 Digital edition

Magazine

Current Issue

04/2020 2020

View past issues
Subscribe
Advertise
Digital edition

Europe

UK and EU27 citizens in the UK to remain part of EP Communication programmes

UK and EU27 citizens in the UK to remain part of EP Communication programmes

The European Parliament reaffirms its will to continue to engage with young generations of UK citizens and EU27 citizens resident in the UK

Business

Manufacturing can be the engine of global recovery

Manufacturing can be the engine of global recovery

COVID-19 has given the world a sharp reminder that manufacturing and production sectors – and their enabling supply chain ecosystems – remain the most real and significant force in the global economy

MARKET INDICES

Powered by Investing.com
All contents © Copyright EMG Strategic Consulting Ltd. 1997-2021. All Rights Reserved   |   Home Page  |   Disclaimer  |   Website by Theratron