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Brussels accelerates its Circular Economy drive

A strategy to make textiles more durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable has been set out by the European Commission in a package of measures aimed at scaling up its Circular Economy Action Plan.

Other initiatives include:

*new rules to make almost all physical goods on the EU market more friendly to the environment, circular, and energy efficient throughout their whole lifecycle

*boosting the internal market for the construction sector

*proposed new rules to ensure consumers are better informed about the environmental sustainability of products and better protected against ‘greenwashing’.

In announcing the proposals, the Commission says it is presenting the tools to move to ‘a truly circular economy in the EU’ decoupled from energy and resource dependencies, more resilient to external shocks and respectful of nature and people’s health.
The proposals build on the EU’s existing ‘ecodesign’ rules which are estimated to have saved consumers EUR 120 billion in 2021 and led to a 10% lower annual energy consumption by products bounds by the rules.

Sustainable and circular textiles

European consumption of textiles has the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles sets out actions to ensure that by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, made as much as possible of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment. 

The specific measures will include ecodesign requirements for textiles, clearer information, a Digital Product Passport and a mandatory EU extended producer responsibility scheme. To address fast fashion, the strategy also calls on companies to reduce the number of collections per year, take responsibility and act to minimise their carbon and environmental footprints, and on member states to adopt favourable taxation measures for the reuse and repair sector.

Construction products

Buildings are responsible for more than 30% of the EU’s total waste generated per year, 40% of EU’s energy consumption and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Revision of the Construction Products Regulation will update rules in place since 2011. ‘New product requirements will ensure that the design and manufacture of construction products is based on state of the art to make these more durable, repairable, recyclable, easier to re-manufacture,’ the EC says. It will also offer digital solutions to reduce administrative burdens, particularly on SMEs, including a construction products database and a digital products passport.

Sustainable products

proposal for a Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products addresses product design, which determines up to 80% of a product’s lifecycle environmental impact. It sets new requirements to make products more durable, reliable, reusable, upgradable, reparable, easier to maintain, refurbish and recycleand energy and resource efficient. All regulated products will have digital product passports, making it easier to repair or recycle products and facilitate tracking substances of concern along the supply chain.

Frans Timmermans, vice-president for the European Green Deal says: ‘Today’s proposals will ensure that only the most sustainable products are sold in Europe. They allow consumers to save energy, repair and not replace broken products, and make smart environmental choices when they are shopping for new ones.’
Environment commissioner VirginijusSinkevičius adds: ‘Giving a longer lifespan to the phones we use, to the clothes we wear and to many other products will save money for European consumers. At the end of their life, products will not be a source of pollution but of new materials for the economy, decreasing the dependency of European businesses on imports.’

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