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  • December 14, 2023
  • EEB

EEB | Ecodesign: EU one step closer to making sustainable products the norm

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EU legislators agree on Ecodesign rules, but fail to ban the destruction of unsold goods and ensure enforcement for products sold online.

The European Commission, Parliament and Council reached an agreement last night on a new framework to make products sustainable by design. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the ban on the destruction of unsold textiles as well as progressive provisions on cement and substances of concern, but lament the twofold failure to rule out the wasteful destruction of unsold electronics and provide a credible enforcement regime for products sold online.

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is one of the flagship initiatives of the Green Deal and Europe’s circular economy objectives. The policy is a revamp and extension of the existing Ecodesign and energy labelling framework, which only applies to electrical appliances. 

The new regulation will put in place minimum requirements such as efficiency, durability and recyclability for almost any product on the EU market. However, during the negotiations, some products such as military equipment and motor vehicles were removed from the scope. 

The regulation includes provisions to ensure the traceability of harmful substances in products, and the possibility to restrict them when they are a barrier to recycling or have a negative impact on human health. 

Environmental groups also welcome a ban on the destruction of unsold textiles, which will be effective 24 months after the law comes into force. 

However, campaigners regret the lack of a ban on the destruction of unsold electronics, a rampant market practice and one of the most environmentally harmful in Europe [2]. Green NGOs and businesses alike previously called for an immediate EU-wide halt to the destruction of unsold goods under the ESPR, but the European Commission and national governments’ representatives within the Council refused to take this forward. 

Lawmakers also neglected the growing challenge of applying EU standards to products sold online and imported to the EU from abroad. European industries and campaigners are concerned about the overwhelming influx of goods from major online retailers like Shein, Amazon, and Temu, fearing that the lack of accountability for these players may undermine EU rules and create an unlevel playing field for European manufacturers and retailers. A recent mystery shopping exercise from the lighting industry revealed as much as 95% of lights sold on online platforms were non-compliant with existing rules. 

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Manager of Circular Economyat the EEB, said:  “The agreement on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation represents a significant step towards the Green Deal objective to make sustainable products the norm. Future requirements within this framework must now ensure that products such as textiles, furniture and intermediaries such as steel become more circular, durable and less carbon intensive. However, it is illogical that harmful practices like the destruction of unsold goods will still be permitted, and that imported products sold online will be easily able to ignore the rules.”

The ESPR legislation is expected to be adopted before the European elections. The Regulation will then rely on secondary legislation to establish rules per product group. Stakeholders will have a keen eye on which sectors and products will be prioritised first. 



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