Eco-design requirements for sustainable products

In “A European Green Deal”

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Ecodesign refers to the integration of environmental sustainability considerations into the characteristics of a product, and into processes throughout its value chain. The EU lacks an overarching legislative framework laying down rules for sustainable production and consumption of all products. In March 2022, the Commission submitted a proposal for a regulation on ecodesign requirements for sustainable products. It includes the following elements:

  • All products on the internal market would have to comply with minimum ecodesign requirements, which would be set out later, in delegated acts, for different groups of products. The ecodesign requirements could aim to improve durability, reliability, reusability, upgradability, reparability, possibility of maintenance and refurbishment, possibility of remanufacturing and recycling, resource use or resource efficiency, recycled content, presence of hazardous chemicals, environmental impacts and expected generation of waste materials;
  • The new regulation would allow for the introduction of a digital product passport for specific product groups, which would provide information on performance, traceability, technical documentation, harmful chemicals, user manuals etc. This should make it easier to repair or recycle products and facilitate tracking substances of concern along the supply chain;
  • Transparency requirements would be introduced for companies that discard unsold consumer products. The Commission would be empowered to ban, at a later stage, the destruction of particular groups of products that have significant environmental impacts;
  • Online marketplaces would be required to cooperate with the market surveillance authorities to ensure effective market surveillance measures, while market surveillance authorities would be empowered to order an online marketplace to remove products that do not comply with the eco-design requirements;
  • Products which can detect they are being tested and alter their performance during the tests would be banned;
  • The Commission would be empowered to adopt delegated acts establishing ecodesign requirements for public contracts, including mandatory technical specifications and selection criteria;
  • Member States would be allowed to provide incentives for consumers to make sustainable choices, in particular when the more sustainable products are not affordable enough, for instance, by introducing eco-vouchers and green taxation. 

In Parliament, the file has been referred to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), with Alessandra Moretti (S&D, Italy) as rapporteur. The Committees on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) are associated committees, IMCO having some exclusive competences on some articles of the proposal. ITRE and IMCO published their opinions on the proposal on 31 March and 27 April 2023 respectively.

A total of 1136 amendments were tabled in ENVI. The vote on the draft report in ENVI took place on 15 June 2023. The report was adopted with 68 votes in favour, 12 against and 8 abstentions.

ENVI introduced new provisions according to which the Commission would have to prioritise in the first working plan (including the list of product groups for which it would establish ecodesign requirements), for 2024-2027, the following products: iron, steel, aluminium, textiles, notably garments and footwear, furniture, including mattresses, tyres, detergents, paints, lubricants, chemicals, energy-related products, the implementing measures for which need to be revised or newly defined, and ICT products and other electronics.

Furthermore, when setting the eco-design requirements, the Commission would have to make sure that manufacturers do not limit the durability of a product, making it prematurely obsolete. The Commission would present the draft working plans and their updates to the Parliament before their adoption. Furthermore, one year after the entry into force of the new regulation, the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear, and electrical and electronic equipment by companies would be banned (with some possible exceptions). This would not apply to small and medium-sized enterprises. 

The Commission would also have to set up a public online platform allowing consumers to compare information included in the product passports. Information that is essential to the health, safety, and rights of end-users would have to be provided in physical form with the product. Furthermore, ENVI introduced new provisions to increase the transparency of the work of the Ecodesign Forum, and to allow the Forum to send a request the Commission to prepare ecodesign requirements for a particular product group, that the Commission would have to take into consideration. ENVI also added new provisions on remedies for consumers in case a product does not comply with ecodesign requirements. The Parliament adopted the report unchanged on 12 July 2023, by 473 votes in favour, 110 against and 69 abstentions. 

The Council adopted its general approach on the proposed regulation on 22 May 2023. It introduces for instance a direct ban on the destruction of apparel and clothing accessories; excludes motor vehicles from the scope of the proposal; and clarifies how member states' experts would be involved when the future eco-design requirements are developed.

The co-legislators found a provisional agreement on 5 December 2023. Under the agreement, from two years after entry into force of the new Regulation, the destruction of unsold consumer products listed in a new annex (apparel and clothing accessories and footwear) will be prohibited. More detailed information is available in the EPRS legislative briefing mentioned in the 'Further reading' section.  

It was approved by Coreper on 22 December 2023, and by ENVI on 11 January 2024. The agreement was approved by Parliament on 23 April 2024.

References:

Further reading:

Author: Guillaume Ragonnaud, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on circular economy.

As of 20/05/2024.