Reaching a Circular Economy: what’s on the EU’s plate?

What steps is Europe taking to truly establish a Circular Economy? Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director-General discussed the make or break factors of the key European Commission policy files which can contribute to the establishment of a circular culture at the Lighting Europe webinar. 

What steps is Europe taking to truly establish a Circular Economy? Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director-General discussed the make or break factors of the key European Commission policy files which can contribute to the establishment of a circular culture at the Lighting Europe webinar. 

Home appliances play a pivotal role in the lives of millions of European citizens on a daily basis. Needless to say, legislation regarding home appliances has the potential to shape how we act as a society. In this regard, emphasis must be placed on working with policymakers to shape legislation toward creating more sustainable products which help achieve the EU’s set 2030 and 2050 climate ambitions. “Closing the loop and realising a circular culture can be inherited through improved energy efficiency standards and optimised resource use, from the manufacturing stage right through to the end of the product’s lifecycle,” stated Falcioni. A second Circular Economy package, initially slated to be published on July 20, is now scheduled for November 16. This follows the first bundle the Commission presented on 30 March. Here, there are a number of policy files which will have a huge impact on the successfulness of  enabling the green transition via a future policy landscape which fosters circular appliances, these include Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), Right to Repair and Batteries Regulation Proposal, among others.

Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR): Learning from the successful experience of the recent Ecodesign Directive, this new initiative presents an opportunity for European manufacturers and policymakers to come together to create a policy landscape where sustainable products are the norm. For the ESPR to be implemented successfully, duplication or cascading of current product requirements must be avoided. Take the case of requirements relating to ‘substances of concern’ where chemical legislation is already in place or the proposed Digital Product Passport. Here, “we must avoid replication of information provided by existing databases, as it is the case for EPREL and SCIP, respectively,” highlighted Falcioni. Read more

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM): As it currently stands, CBAM lacks the necessary provisions to tackle the issue of carbon leakage in downstream products. Consequences of this can be foreseen in the eventual relocation of carbon emissions, production, and investments outside of the EU, potentially resulting in mass industrial delocalisation. “For CBAM to be feasible, a complementary legislative proposal should be introduced which effectively addresses downstream products, and ultimately preserves the competitiveness of the EU manufacturing industry across global markets,” summarised Falcioni. Read more

Right to Repair: Repair is a fundamental aspect of the industry’s efforts to improve sustainable production through requiring products that enter the market to be increasingly more durable, repairable and resource-efficient. According to data generated by APPLiA members, “81% of the requests to manufacturers for a repair of a product resulted in an actual repair in 2016, which then increased up to 91% in 2018,” shared Falcioni highlighting how  repair is already a reality in Europe. In this context, consumer protection and safety is vital to earning the trust of citizens and not to impede efforts made towards establishing a circular economy. The repair of home appliances requires a specific set of technical skills that most consumers or non-professional repairers simply do not possess. If an appliance is not properly repaired and safety testing procedures are not respected, safety within the home could be compromised. For this reason, repairers need to comply with the applicable regulations for repairs of electrical equipment, but also need to have relevant insurance covering liabilities resulting from the service. Read more

Batteries Regulation Proposal: Driving innovation whilst prioritising the safety of consumers, from the design phase to the end-of-life of appliances is of utmost concern for the home appliance industry. When it comes to replacing the battery of products, “correct handling by professional operators with technical skills and competence on specific applications, is key to ensure safety and usability aspects are preserved at all stages,” declared Falcioni. Read more

F-Gas Regulation Proposal: Home appliance manufacturers have committed to provide solutions for phasing down the usage of F-gases in products in an attempt to mitigate climate change and reduce carbon emissions. As currently proposed, the phase-down of the EU's proposed F-Gas Regulation is not in line with the REPowerEU objectives. The home appliance sector faces contradictory plans between the F-Gas Regulation Proposal which proposes a ban on the usage of heat pumps for buildings, versus the REPowerEU objectives which call for the wide scale deployment of such technology. When it comes to shifting towards the use of natural refrigerants, “propane is not a one-size-fits-all solution suitable for all applications,” explained Falcioni. The new phase-down proposal puts forward, ”unrealistic assumptions of widespread use of propane,” highlighted Falcioni. Read more

Overall, the home appliance sector’s positions highlighted above provide an insight into how we view the current political landscape, working hand-in-hand with policymakers to create a more sustainable circular economy for all actors.