Smartphones, clothes and furniture will have to become longer-lasting and easier to repair and recycle under new sustainability rules proposed by the European Union.
Over-consumption of everyday items and the resources to make them is heaping pressure on the environment and driving waste generation, which is set to soar by 70% globally by 2050.
The European Commission on Wednesday responded with proposals to require products sold in the EU to comply with standards on circularity, meaning they are durable, can be reused, repaired and recycled, and contain recycled materials.
“In this way, we protect ourselves and our planet. We build up resilience in our supply chains and we save money,” EU environment policy chief Virginijus Sinkevicius said.
Such rules currently apply to the energy performance of white goods – using an A to G label to help consumers choose less energy-intensive products. That helped save around 120 billion euros on energy bills in 2021, the Commission said, going some way to shield Europeans from soaring power prices.
High-impact products including textiles, furniture, tires, paints and steel could be among those targeted first with product-specific rules, which the EU will now develop.
The plans are likely to face lobbying from industries which make goods with short lifespans, while campaigners said the impact would depend on product-specific requirements.
“The document leaves most of the key details to the delegated acts that the (Commission) will work on in the coming years,” Joan Marc Simon, executive director of Zero Waste Europe said, adding the proposal also had “great potential impact.”
Products would also be tagged with a “passport” of information for consumers about their sustainability.
With only 10% of the 63 million tons of plastics produced in the EU in 2019 recycled, the Commission said repurposing more products and materials would also cut the bloc’s reliance on imported resources including fossil fuels, a concern sharpened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And with a truckload of textiles now bound for landfill or incinerated every second, the Commission is also targeting fast fashion, saying a revision of EU waste rules next year should make producers responsible for what happens to textiles when they reach the end of their life.