The European Commission announced a new provisional agreement that aims to “help make sustainable products the new norm” in the European Union. In particular, the provisional agreement for “more sustainable, repairable, and circular products” – which was reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation this week – aims to ensure that products “last longer, use energy and resources more efficiently, [are] easier to repair and recycle, contain fewer substances of concern, and include more recycled content,” while also “leveling the playing field for sustainable products on the EU’s internal market and strengthen the global competitiveness of businesses offering sustainable products.”
The new law, as first proposed by the European Commission last year, will build on the existing Ecodesign Directive by “progressively setting performance and information requirements for key products placed on the EU market.” The Commission says that it will “adopt and regularly update a list of products identified on the basis of a thorough analysis and criteria notably related to the EU’s climate, environment and energy efficiency objectives” in order to ensure “predictability and transparency” on which products will be covered and when.
The Commission – which proposes new EU laws and policies and ensures the proper application of existing legislation – confirmed that it will give priority to “highly impactful products, including textiles (especially garments and footwear), furniture (including mattresses), iron and steel, aluminum, tires, paints, lubricants and chemicals, as well as energy related products, ICT products and other electronics.”
In addition to requirements aimed at boosting “product durability, reusability, upgradability, and repairability,” including by requiring companies to make product information available product by way of a Digital Product Passport, the Commission says that the new regulation also contains “novel measures to end the wasteful and environmentally harmful practice of destroying unsold consumer products.” Specifically, companies will have to “take measures to prevent this practice,” according to the Commission, which notes that co-legislators have introduced “a direct ban on destruction of unsold textiles and footwear products, with derogations for small companies and a transition period for medium-sized ones.” In terms of the ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear, it will come into effect for companies two years after the law is enacted. Medium-size companies (those with a maximum of 250 workers) will have a six-year exemption, while smaller companies (those with fewer than 50 employees) will be exempt from the ban.
As for next steps … the European Parliament and the Council now have to formally adopt the new Regulation. “Once adopted, the Regulation will enter into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal,” according to the Commission. “After this happens, the first working plan under the new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation will be adopted, which will establish which products would be targeted.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Commission presented more than a dozen legislative proposals, including a proposal for a Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products, an EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, and a revision of the Construction Products Regulation, in March 2022 to “address the entire lifecycle of textile products and propose actions to change how we produce and consume textiles.” In its preliminary release, the EU’s governing body proposed sustainability-focused legislation, such as requirements for textiles, “setting mandatory minimums for the inclusion of recycled fibers in textiles,” and a prohibition against “the destruction of unsold products under certain conditions, including unsold or returned textiles.”
Additionally, the Commission called for product-specific information requirements to ensure consumers know the environmental impacts of their purchases, with “all regulated products” – including apparel – to come with Digital Product Passports, which will help to cut down on rampant greenwashing and “make it easier [for consumers] to repair or recycle products,” and will aid in the facilitation of “tracking substances of concern along the supply chain.”
Reflecting on the 16 pieces of legislation that comprise the eco-focused package, Virginijus Sinkevičius, who serves as the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said this spring, “The fashion industry has kind of escaped regulation, but we see that they are a big pressure for natural resources and with regard to pollution.” With the proposals slated to be in effect within the next five years, he asserts that the proposals will be a “challenge” for fashion brands, especially those that are in the business of producing low-quality apparel and accessories intended to last for a season or even just a few wears.