The European Union has to respond to different needs generated by the pandemic, the current conflict in Ukraine and the climate changes increasingly evident.
Part of this framework consists in reformulate the economic plan and redesigns the European energy system: it is increasingly important to think about sustainable growth and the responsible use of resources in line with the agenda that Europe has set out in its Green Deal.
With a statement published on 30 March, the European Commission has laid the foundations to make this approach as close to reality as possible. In fact, there is the proposal for a regulation on the eco-design of sustainable products – ESPR.
A public consultation will be launched on the product categories to be selected under the first ESPR work plan by the end of the year. However, a preliminary assessment found that textiles, furniture, mattresses, tyres, detergents, paints, lubricants and certain metallic materials (iron, steel and aluminium) have a high environmental impact and are therefore suitable candidates.
Many Member States are making independent efforts to make products more sustainable, which generates an uneven progress across the EU. For European legislators, it is therefore essential to set in motion as soon as possible a system of harmonised regulations aimed at smoothing out these differences.
The goal is to design increasingly sustainable products, and, for this aim, the eco-design specifications include:
- durability, reliability, reusability, upgradeability, repairability, easy maintenance and product refurbishment
- restrictions on the presence of substances that inhibit the circularity of products and materials;
- energy use or energy efficiency of products;
- resource use or resource efficiency of products;
- minimum recycled content in products;
- ease of disassembly, remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials;
- life-cycle environmental impact of products, including their carbon and environmental footprints;
- preventing and reducing waste, including packaging waste.
The European Commission has announced a new EU textile strategy and a revised regulation on construction products, which lays down requirements for environmental sustainability. Both proposals are adopted as part of this package of measures.
For products for which there is no specific EU legislation with requirements on environmental sustainability, ESPR will be the legal framework for sustainability rules.
After its entry into force, and without prejudice to the impact assessment, this regulatory gap will be filled through secondary legislation, which specifies eco-design performance and information requirements, and demands to draft a digital product passport.
All regulated products will therefore have digital passports, which will facilitate tracking substances of concern throughout the supply chain and throughout the life cycle of materials and products, following up the commitments made under the EU Chemicals Strategy.
This regulatory framework, the Commission said, could lead to changes and additions to existing chemicals legislation, such as the REACH Regulation or the RoHS Directive (on the restriction of hazardous substances in electronic and electrical equipment). Furthermore, to manage the updating of products already on the market, the Commission is also adopting a new work plan for Ecodesign and energy labelling for the period 2022-2024.
Finally, ESPR will also set mandatory criteria for public procurement of products, with the aim of leveraging public spending to increase the demand for environmentally sustainable products.
A complex and extensive future European regulatory framework is emerging, aimed at pursuing the sustainability of the products circulating in the European Union. A regulatory system that will have great influence on all industrial sectors. We recommend following the developments of the next months.
Source: European Commission