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European Commission Releases Sustainable Products Initiative

Han Zuyderwijk

At the end of this month, on March 30, 2022, the European Commission will release its Sustainable Products Initiative. The proposal, which was originally scheduled for last year, is one of the measures announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan and aims to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in products placed on the EU market while also making them more sustainable, durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and energy-efficient. 

Why a Sustainable Products Initiative?

It is expected that the proposed legislation will establish a horizontal framework: the “Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products”. It must expand the scope of the EU’s present Ecodesign Directive. This enhancement of existing laws will increase the number of products covered (beyond merely energy-related products) as well as an expansion of the rules themselves. It also has plans to include additional ecodesign requirements. The proposed regulation would include the following major elements:

Repeal the current Ecodesign Directive and replace it with a new framework 

This will be outlining broad eco-design principles. Delegated legislation would be published to apply those principles to specific product groups in a more specific way (similar to the approach under the existing Ecodesign Directive). A working plan will be released, outlining the product groups that will be targeted over the next few years. For each product group, delegated legislation would set-out:

  • Performance requirements covering a wide range of sustainability considerations, such as product durability, reliability, reusability, upgradability, and repairability, the presence of substances of concern, energy use and resource efficiency, use of recycled content, ease of remanufacturing and recycling, material recovery, reducing products’ carbon and environmental footprint, and expected generation of waste would be established by delegated legislation for each product group. 
  • Information requirements: such as digital product passports (see below), specific information on labelling and websites.
The toxic-free hierarchy
The toxic-free hierarchy

Establish additional requirements for the collection and reporting of in-use data for certain connected items. 

Delegated law may mandate certain devices to be able to measure in-use energy consumption or performance against other metrics for a display to end-users and reporting to the Commission (in an anonymized form).

Introduce EU digital product passports.

The proposed regulation will establish the structure for an EU digital product passport, with delegated legislation enforcing the need for certain product groupings. This will also specify what information must be included in the digital product passport, such as the type of data carrier to be used (e.g., a QR code), who has access to what information (e.g., consumers, repairers, remanufacturers, market surveillance authorities, public interest groups, and so on). Furthermore, it will specify how long the product passport must be available. Delegated law will also spell out comprehensive technical regulations for the digital product passport’s design, data needs, and operation.

Establish new guidelines for the disposal of unsold consumer goods.

A broad responsibility of transparency for economic operators that trash unsold consumer products is included in the proposals. This will necessitate the sharing of certain data, such as the annual amount of unsold products destroyed, the reasons for discarding those products, and how those products were treated. The Commission would be able to pass future delegated legislation prohibiting the destruction of certain types of unsold consumer goods.

What’s next?

As mentioned before The European Commission is scheduled to publish the legislative proposal on 30 March 2022. So the content of the proposal can still change until then. Following the publication of the legislative proposal, stakeholders are asked to submit feedback on the plan. 

Source: Edward Turtle and Tracey Bischofberger / Cooley. Additional information is available on the Official website from the EC