Expectations too high

If an ambitious announcement is made, it is bound to raise high expectations. Now the EU Commission will have to live with the fact that it was unable to fulfil these expectations with its new circular economy package. Nevertheless, the package is not a total failure, quite the contrary.

The Commission reveals that recent results in product design do not correlate with their agenda. From their point of view, the interests of producers, users and recyclers are not aligned. The Commission is therefore looking to provide incentives for better product design. The Ecodesign Directive, which had primarily focused on energy efficiency, has been revised in terms of reparability, durability and recyclability. As a first step, the Commission will submit mandatory requirements for product design and marking requirements for electronic displays to make it easier to dismantle, reuse and recycle them. The action plan includes a corresponding Ecodesign working plan for the next two years. Furthermore, the Commission proposes the differentiation of financial contributions paid by producers under an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, based on the end-of-life costs of their products. This change is intended to create economic incentives to design products that can be more easily recycled or reused.

The Commission also wants to win consumers over to sustainable consumption via the costs. Incentives or taxes are intended to ensure that product prices better reflect environmental costs. Furthermore, green claims are put to the test to provide more security for customers. The sector for repair and reuse is likely to be strengthened – not least because the Commission regards it as very promising in terms of job creation. To make repair easier in the future, the Ecodesign work plan will cover the availability of spare parts and repair information. New business and consumption models of the “sharing economy”, which are often developed by businesses and citizens at regional or local level, will be supported through Horizon 2020 and Cohesion policy funding. The Commission will also develop a European agenda for the collaborative economy.

The call to reduce the volume of household waste, which is also included, is of less significance. This task is delegated at national and local levels – the Commission merely wants to support it. Public procurement is also encouraged to consider criteria relevant to the circular economy, although only on a voluntary basis.


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