The European Parliament and EU member states announced on Tuesday 5 December an agreement to ban the destruction of new, unsold clothing and to strengthen the eco-design of many consumer goods so that they are easier to repair and recycle.
The new legislation, proposed by the European Commission in March 2022, sets new requirements in the design of products to limit their impact on the environment, make them more reliable, reusable and repairable, but also easier to recycle and more efficient in in terms of resources consumed.
Prohibition on destroying unsold items
Among the concrete measures, the destruction of unsold clothing and shoes will now be prohibited. The measure will take effect two years after the law comes into force. A six-year period is granted to medium-sized companies, while small companies will be exempt. The Commission will have the power to extend this ban to other categories of products.
Furthermore, large companies will have to reveal each year the volume of products discarded and provide explanations to justify this practice, in the hope of encouraging them to give up it.
Concerning ecodesign, the Commission will define specific requirements for certain consumer goods in order to encourage the circular economy. It clarified on Tuesday that it would give priority to “high impact” products, in particular textiles, furniture (including mattresses), iron and steel, aluminum, tires, as well as electronic products. . Motor vehicles are excluded from the new legislation as they are already covered by specific regulations.
Digital passport for products
The text also introduces for clothing, as for a wide range of consumer products, a “digital passport” in the form of a QR code, containing information which will allow consumers and businesses to know the impact of their purchases on the environment and thus inform their choices. It will also provide information on traceability and the materials used which will facilitate repair and recycling.
“It is time to put an end to the “extract, make, throw away” model which is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy,” commented Social Democratic MEP Alessandra Moretti, rapporteur of the text. “The new products will be designed in a way that benefits everyone, respects our planet and protects the environment,” she said.
Agreement welcomed by European employers
European employers welcomed the agreement reached on Tuesday while worrying about new administrative constraints. “The ecodesign regulation has the potential to create a strong market for circular products and accelerate the transition,” welcomed Markus Beyrer, director general of BusinessEurope, but he said he feared that “the requirements in terms of information is unachievable and overburdens companies.
The text, negotiated for several months by the EU co-legislators, will still have to be formally approved by MEPs in plenary session and by the Member States.