The European Commission is scheduled to publish its Sustainable Products Initiative on 30 March 2022. The proposal, originally slated for last year, is one of the measures announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan and aims to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and make products placed on the EU market more sustainable, durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy efficient. Read on for our guide to what to expect.

What is it?

We understand that current plans are for the proposed legislation to lay down a horizontal framework (due to be called the “Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products”) to broaden the scope of the EU’s current Ecodesign Directive. This widening of existing rules would see an increase both in terms of the number of products covered (beyond just energy-related products) and an expansion of the rules themselves – with plans to introduce new ecodesign requirements. Some key aspects of the proposed regulation would:

  • repeal the existing Ecodesign Directive and establish a new framework that sets out broad ecodesign principles. Delegated legislation would be published to apply those principles more specifically to certain product groups (similar to the approach under the existing Ecodesign Directive). A working plan will be published that sets out the product groups to be targeted over the coming years. For each product group, delegated legislation would set-out:
    • performance requirements covering a wide range of sustainability considerations, such as product durability, reliability, reusability, upgradability and repairability, the presence of substances of concern, energy use and resource efficiency, use of recycled content, ease of remanufacturing and recycling, recovery of materials, reducing products’ carbon and environmental footprint and expected generation of waste materials, including packaging; and
    • information requirements: such as digital product passports (see below), specific information on labelling and websites.
  • lay down new obligations to collect and report in-use data for certain connected products. According to reports, delegated legislation may require that certain products be able to measure in-use energy consumption or performance against other parameters to display to end-users and for reporting (in an anonymised form) to the Commission.
  • introduce EU digital product passports. We understand that the proposed Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products will lay down a framework for an EU digital product passport, with delegated legislation applying the requirement to certain product groups. The delegated legislation would also set out what information would be required in the digital product passport, such as the type of data carrier to be used (e.g. a QR code), which actors have access to what information (e.g. consumers, repairers, remanufacturers, market surveillance authorities, public interest groups etc) and how long the product passport must be made available. Delegated legislation will also lay out detailed technical rules for the design, data requirements and operation of the digital product passport.
  • lay down new rules for the destruction of unsold consumer products. Proposals include a general obligation of transparency for economic operators who discard unsold consumer products. This will require disclosure of certain information, such as the number of unsold products destroyed per year, reasons for discarding those products and how they were treated. The Commission would be empowered to adopt future delegated legislation to prohibit certain categories of unsold consumer products from being destroyed.

What’s next?

The European Commission is scheduled to publish the legislative proposal on 30 March 2022 and the content of the proposal could still change until then. After the legislative proposal is published, a feedback period is then expected for stakeholders to provide their views on the proposal.

Stay tuned for more on this from the Cooley products team.

Posted by Edward Turtle and Tracey Bischofberger