EU to pull plug on wasteful, unrepairable products

Newly adopted EU laws will make several products easier to repair and more energy efficient, saving people money while reducing pollution, NGOs in the Coolproducts campaign said.
Karl-Heinz Laube,

For the first time, manufacturers will be obliged to make several home appliances easier to repair following the formal adoption of ground-breaking laws by the European Commission today. The new rules will also cut the energy needed to power them.

As of 2021, all TVs, monitors, fridges, freezers, washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers and lighting products placed on the EU market will have to meet minimum repairability requirements aimed at extending their lifetime. These products will also be made easier to recycle thanks to improved design and, in the case of displays, the removal of halogenated flame retardants.

The Coolproducts campaign brings together policy experts to ensure product policy benefits people and the planet. It’s led by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and ECOS.

Today’s announcement represents a turning point in the way we produce and use our products, according to NGOs.

Stephane Arditi, policy manager for the circular economy with the EEB, said: “This is the kind of innovation that we all need right now. Energy efficiency laws have already cut our energy bills and will continue to do so. Now, by also ensuring we get to use our products for longer, Europe can deliver further savings for people while cutting carbon emissions and waste.”

Chloé Fayole, Programme and Strategy Director at ECOS, said: “With these measures, Europe has just taken a big step towards a more circular economy, which should inspire the rest of the world. We now expect EU decision makers to replicate this approach to many other products and notably electronic products such as smartphones and computers, to minimise their environmental impact.”

The new measures are part of the EU’s Ecodesign Directive, which removes the most wasteful products from the market, replacing them with units that do the same job with less energy and resources. They were previously agreed by all 28 EU governments in January, [2] and are among the last few measures adopted by this European Commission before new officials take office.

Together with new energy labels adopted in March, [3] the new energy efficiency requirements will help the EU save an additional 140TWh of energy a year, which corresponds to 5% of the EU electricity consumption. For consumers and companies, this means €20 billion saved on energy bills.

The repairability requirements can help deliver even more savings by slashing demand for new products and carbon emissions linked to manufacturing, distributing, using and disposing of new products. Extending the lifespan of washing machines by just five years would save the EU as much emissions (CO2eq) as taking half a million cars off the roads annually, a recent study found.

The new requirements have the potential to make our products last longer. Manufacturers will have to ensure that appliances can be easily disassembled with commonly available tools. Spare parts and repair information will have to be made available to professional repairers for a minimum number of years.

The next EU officials should ensure that this approach is replicated across most product groups, the NGOs said. Ugo Vallauri, policy lead of the Restart Project and a member of the newly formed Right to Repair campaign in Europe, said: “This is an important step in the right direction, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. Next step will be to make spare parts and repair manuals available to all, not just professional repairers, and to extend repair provisions to many more products, starting with smartphones.”


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