The European Commission adopted its 2021 Work Programme last week. Sustainability features heavily on the agenda, building on measures announced in the new Circular Economy Action plan (see our blog here). The Commission has also announced many other initiatives relevant to all those who design, manufacture, buy and sell products.

Here’s our quick-fire review of the initiatives announced that you should keep on your radar:

  • Sustainable products policy initiative, including a revision of the Ecodesign Directive. This measure was announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan and aims to make products placed on the EU market more sustainable, durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy efficient. This targets a wide range of products, and includes a whole raft of measures, including requirements to provide repair services and ensuring the availability of spare parts. See our blog here to find out more.
  • Circular Electronics Initiative. Thisaims to improve the collection, reuse and repair of mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices. This initiative was also announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan and includes measures such as introducing the right-to-repair and requirements for the energy efficiency, durability, repairability and recycling of electronic devices.
  • New design requirements and consumer rights for electronics. The 2021 Work Programme does not go into detail on what this will cover. We expect this initiative could include measures announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan aimed at extending the lifetime of electronic equipment, such as strengthening consumer protection rules against premature product obsolesce and “greenwashing” and introducing a right to updates for obsolete software.
  • Artificial Intelligence: the Commission will follow-up its White Paper on AI published earlier this year with legislation covering safety, liability, fundamental rights and data aspects of artificial intelligence. See our blog on the AI White Paper here.
  • Evaluation of the New Legislative Framework (“NLF”) for Products. The Commission will look at the EU legislative framework governing accreditation, market surveillance and marketing of CE-marked products (in effect, the template for EU product-specific legislation). The aim is to assess the NLF’s effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value, whilst also tackling whether the framework is fit for the digital age and a greener economy.
  • Revision of Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Amendments are being put forward to reinforce the essential requirements for packaging to ensure its reuse and recycling, uptake of recycled content and improve enforceability of the requirements. The initiative will tackle over-packaging and reduce packaging waste.
  • Revision of Construction Products Regulation. This will tackle the main issues identified in the evaluation, such as problems linked to the development of harmonised technical specifications and the impact of national requirements. It’s been announced that the revision will also add a framework to develop and implement environmental and sustainability criteria for construction products.
  • Revision of the Machinery Directive. The Commission is proposing changes to address risks stemming from new technologies (whilst also allowing technical progress), simplify the requirements for documentation by allowing digital formats and improve the legal clarity of some major concepts and definitions.
  • Evaluation of the EMC Directive. The Commission will continue its work on the evaluation of the EMC Directive to assess if its rules are still fit for purpose, especially in light of new technologies and the increased prevalence of consumer tech products. See our blog here.

This is a wide-ranging policy agenda, with real significance for all stakeholders. If you’d like to discuss these developments, please do reach out to us. The Cooley products team has a lot of experience navigating the EU legislative process and can help you to contribute your views, seek changes to draft proposals or evaluate what this programme might mean for your business.

Posted by Edward Turtle