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Politico Live: Making green products the norm in the EU?

Event reports 05 Apr 2022

In light of the recent publication of the European Commission’s Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI), APPLiA’s Director General, Paolo Falcioni, was invited to participate at the Politico Europe live event on what it means in practice to make sustainable products the norm in  Europe and its interplay with the role of the industry in advancing circular appliances. The panel discussion featured several experts including Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries; Matjaž Malgaj, Head of Unit, DG Environment at the European Commission; Delara Burkhardt MEP for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and Justin Wilkes, Director General of the European Coalition on Standards (ECOS).

Falcioni began the debate by questioning the effectiveness of the Initiative as currently proposed, to be applicable to all goods. An analogy was drawn by APPLiA’s Director General between J.R Tolkien’s ideological “one ring to rule them all” approach found in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the current “one size fits all’ proposal, put forward by the European Commission when it comes to product policy. What could be called a kind of “catch-all legislation,” the SPI puts together all-encompassing ecodesign, energy label, waste legislation, chemical legislation, and market surveillance legislation. In this sense, the current Ecodesign Directive has been successful in delivering on environmental, energy efficiency, and decarbonisation objectives for energy-related products, regulating measurable, verifiable parameters of appliances on the basis of a clear and transparent methodology. As such, an expansion to non-energy related applications would risk questioning its proven legal ground, regulatory process, and methodology.  In this regard, the home appliance sector calls for a parallel legislation, with appropriate methodologies, which could take inspiration from how the current legislation was implemented and put into practice. 

The discussion then progressed onto the issue of how the Sustainable Products Initiative can help promote new, innovative, circular business models. Common consumer legislation to be applied across all 27 EU Member States was cited as “a step forward towards a more sustainable environment” by Falcioni. The motives behind the destruction of unsold products (which are returned by consumers in under 14 days) by the retailer, were addressed with specific reference to online sales. On this point,  the economic feasibility behind refurbishing unsold products was identified by Falcioni as “an element that must be questioned.” Sometimes it may happen that instead of refurbishing a returned product, “our members found a bunch of pebbles in a returned package, not even checked by the online retailer,” explained Falcioni Unfortunately, this makes the decision to send a product to the landfill an easy one for consumers to take.

Moving forward, the industry would like to see that the future policy landscape for sustainable products continues to drive circular appliances, building on the successes driven by the current product legislation on our products (e.g. Ecodesign, Energy Labeling, WEEE, RoHS and REACH). For this to happen, “policy objectives, choices and incentives across all policy areas need to be clear and consistently implemented to create a market for sustainable circular business models and opportunities from a product life cycle perspective,” concluded Mr Falcioni. 

Watch the event recording at this link

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