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Consumer Goods: EU Eco-design Regulation Set to Renew

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The EU Council has adopted its position (‘general approach’) on the proposed regulation establishing a framework for setting eco-design requirements for sustainable products. The new regulation will replace the existing 2009 directive and enlarge the scope to set environmental sustainability requirements for almost all kinds of goods placed on the EU market. It establishes a Digital Product Passport and sets out rules regarding transparency about and prohibition of the destruction of unsold consumer goods. Link

The proposal seeks to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. It addresses product design, setting new requirements to make products more durable, reliable, reusable, upgradable, reparable, easier to maintain, refurbish and recycle, and energy and resource-efficient. More specifically, amongst other provisions, the proposal seeks to establish:

  • a framework for setting harmonized eco-design requirements in the EU for specific product groups to significantly improve their circularity, energy performance, and other environmental sustainability aspects. It will enable the setting of performance and information requirements for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market (except food, feed, and medicines), and

  • a "Digital Product Passport" will provide information about products' environmental sustainability. It will help consumers and businesses make informed choices when purchasing products, facilitate repairs and recycling and improve transparency about products' life cycle impacts on the environment. The product passport should also help public authorities to better perform their tasks, and

  • a framework to prevent the destruction of unsold consumer products.

Next steps: The general approach agreed this month formalizes the Council’s negotiating position. It provides the Council presidency with a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament, which will start as soon as the Parliament adopts its position.

GC Insights: The EU Eco-Design regulation will serve as one of the milestones toward a sustainable consumer goods market. Prioritizing eco-design will become the new fashion and key consideration for producers. Durable, reliable, reusable, upgradable, reparable, easier to maintain, refurbish and recycle, and energy and resource efficiency will become key parameters to set products apart from “fast-fashions”.

No destroying unsold goods is another major improvement for the eco-design proposal. As the destruction of unsold goods comes at an extremely high cost for people and the environment, as it involves the pointless extraction and overconsumption of natural resources, CO2 emissions from resource extraction to product destruction, the emissions of hazardous substances during the production phase, as well as negative environmental impacts of waste treatment – all of this for products whose actual potential will never be realized. Link

A trickle-down effect on non-EU markets is expected as well. Any organization placing goods for sale on the EU market will be required to comply with the requirements of the regulation, even if they are not based in the EU. This could cause supply chain issues for European businesses and manufacturers if they rely on products produced outside the EU that do not comply with these requirements, with a transition period to start complying with the new rules will be two years.

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