Circular Economy Package - A Game Changer

This package is set to join other packages within the European Green Deal’s Circular Economy Action Plan that works to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. The basic proposal of these new initiatives is to make almost all physical goods on the EU market more circular, energy efficient, and friendlier to the environmental throughout its entire life cycle.

The first initiative of the Circular Economy package is Making Sustainable Products the Norm. This is achieved by redesigning and extending the existing Ecodesign framework. A product design determines up to 80% of its lifecycle environmental impact. With new requirements to make products more durable, reliable, reusable, upgradable, reparable, easier to maintain, refurbish and recycle, and energy efficient this percentage will greatly decrease as products are made better. Aside from production, products with have a new Digital Product Passport. This will allow for easier of tracking repairing and recycling products throughout their lifecycle.

 The extension of the Ecodesign framework is important because it will now cover the broadest possible range of products, but also broaden the scope of the requirements which products must comply in order to be sold in the market. The new criteria will be energy efficient and promote circular economy values. The European Commission has also adopted an Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Working plan for 2022-2024 to cover new energy-related products and update existing energy labelling and requirements.

The second initiative is the Sustainable and Circular Textiles. European consumption of textiles has the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change, just after food, housing, and mobility. Textiles are also the third highest area of consumption for water and land use, and fifth highest for the uses of primary raw materials. The specific measures of the initiative will include ecodesign requirements for textiles, clearer information, a Digital Product Passport and a mandatory EU extended producer responsibility scheme. This will continue to work towards sustainable goals as well as circular economy goals. To the same end, the Commission is also launching a transition pathway for the textile’s ecosystem.  This is an essential collaborative tool that will help companies not only recover from Covid-19 pandemic but also move towards a circular economy.

This initiative is directly related the EU strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. The strategy holds the vision that by 2030 all textile products placed on the EU markets are long-lived and recyclable. Consumers will benefit from products that are free of hazardous substances and are produced in an environmentally conscience way. The inclusion of this initiative in the Circular Economy package is a major step in working towards this strategy.

The third initiative included is The Construction Products of Tomorrow. The construction ecosystem is a key economic and social asset for the local communities in all of Europe’s regions and cities. Construction sectors employ around 25 million people in 5 million firms and have a turnover of Euro 800 billion. Buildings make up the bulk of the resource extraction and are responsible for 50% of resource extraction and consumption. Buildings account for 30% of EU’s total waste generated, 40% of EU’s energy consumption, and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. For these reasons the Revision of the Construction Products Regulation will be revised to strengthen and modernize the rules in place. New product design requirements will ensure that the design and manufacture of construction products is based on state of the art to make these more durable, repairable, recyclable, and easier to re-manufacture.

 The final initiative is Empowering the Consumer for the Green Transition. The goal of this is to prevent greenwashing among products and to amend both the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive. Research shows that nearly 45% of green claims by products are potentially false or deceptive. This proposal will improve the credibility of sustainable claims and labels and empower consumers. This is furthered by new rules on information provisions regarding the length of warranty periods, the availability of spare parts, and software updates. All these are meant to help the consumer understand the expected lifespan of the product they purchase.

The European Environmental Bureau has published a press release on these initiatives and how important this package is for working towards a circular economy. Stephane Arditi, the Director of Policy Integration and Circular Economy, said that "this package is fantastic step in the right direction but lacks teeth to truly make sustainable products the default choice for all.” Gonzalo Sanchez, the Policy Officer for Circular Economy, and Carbon Neutrality in the Building Sector, said that "the Product Passports are key to decarbonize Europe’s built environment by 2050". He further says that "if this package is delayed any further then the task will become “unsurmountable.” Finally, Emily Macintosh, the Policy Officer for Textiles at the EEB spoke on how the EC naming overproduction as the problem has opened the door for strategy to begin to be translated into action.

European Commission Press Corner

EEB News