New EU rules could mean the death of a “throwaway” culture in which products are bought, used briefly and then thrown away. Tweet This!
The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items including mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging, making sure products are designed and manufactured to last – and that they are repairable if they go wrong.
It should mean that your phone lasts longer and proves easier to fix, especially if the display or the battery needs changing.
It’s all part of a worldwide movement called the Right to Repair, which led to the emergence of citizens’ repair workshops in various UK cities.
The plan is being presented by the European Commission and is expected to create standards for the UK too, even after Brexit, because it probably won’t be worthwhile for manufacturers to make lower-grade models only to be sold in Britain.
An ‘ambitious’ proposal
It’s all part of what one green group is calling the most ambitious and complete proposal ever put forward to reduce the environmental and climate impact of the things consumers use and wear. The aim is to make environmentally-friendly products the norm. It could mean manufacturers using screws to hold parts in place, instead of glue.
The rules will also fight “premature obsolescence”, the syndrome in which manufacturers make goods with deliberately low lifespan, to force consumers into buying a newer model.
According to one green group, the European Environment Bureau (EEB): “The strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manufacture, use and dispose of our products in a way that benefits people and the planet.” It urges Europe’s politicians to turn the plans into reality.
The EU also seeks to set a food waste reduction target, end over-packaging, and minimise microplastic pollution. Other recommendations under the proposals, known as the Circular Economy Action Plan, include the following:
- increasing recycled content in products
- reducing products’ impact on the climate and environment
- providing incentives for a new type of consumer use, where producers keep the ownership of the product or the responsibility for its performance throughout the product’s lifecycle – similar to car leasing
The idea is to encourage manufacturers to make sure things don’t break , as they will have to pick up the bill for their repair or replacement. The new rules go further than previous narrower regulations aimed at securing the repair-ability of “white goods” such as fridges and washing machines. However, the EEB complains that the package should go even further, setting waste prevention targets for businesses and industries, along with goals for reducing resource use overall across Europe.
The new EU package may restore some of the block’s reputation for environmental leadership, following condemnation of last week’s climate package. The tone of the document definitely strikes a green note. It begins: “There is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three” and notes that “many products break down too quickly, cannot be easily reused, repaired or recycled, and many are made for single-use only.”
According to the report, global consumption of materials such as biomass (plant material), fossil fuels, metals and minerals is expected to double in the next 40 years. And it stresses that half of total greenhouse gas emissions and over 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and processing. The measures will need to be agreed by member states and MEPs, who are likely to be under pressure to act from their own citizens, who don’t seem to appreciate the throwaway society.
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