Sustainable Product Policy Initiative: new materials and EU policies

Sustainable products and circular economy will have to become the norm: summary of the latest package of measures launched by the European Commission

Sustainable products: Sustainable Product Policy Initiative
The Sustainable Product Policy Initiative (SPI) aims to make physical goods on the European market more environmentally friendly, circular and efficient (Photo: iStock)

Planned obsolescence is a complicated term to define a reality that each of us knows all too well. The products we use every day, computers, smartphones, household appliances, furniture and so on, are "programmed" to last a short time and be replaced. This comes at a very high cost in terms of resources, pollution and, of course, consumer spending. 

THEXNUMX-XNUMX business days has decided to try to drastically change course, launching a package of measures that aim to make products more sustainable and long-lasting, in order to achieve the objectives of energy efficiency and circularity by 2030 - the so-called European "Green Deal". Let's see what it is.

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Sustainable products: planned obsolescence
Planned obsolescence is about designing products to have a limited useful life, with a significant impact on the environment (Photo: Pexels)

Breaking out of the “extract-use-replace” model

The current economic model based on the “extract-use-replace” principle is harmful to thetechnology, biodiversity and climate. It depletes natural resources and makes Europe dependent on external sources. To counter these problems, the EU has decided to commit to moving towards a circular economy model based on more sustainable products.

The Sustainable Product Policy Initiative (SPI) consists of a series of standards aimed at making “almost all physical goods on the EU market that are more environmentally friendly, circular and energy efficient throughout their entire life cycle, from the design stage through to daily use, change of use and management of the end of life".

In other words, it would be a question of "programming" commonly used products to last longer and be sustainable right from the design phase, which generates up to 80 percent of the product's environmental impact during its life cycle. 

A very different, if not opposite, approach to today's, which at best focuses on the "end of life" of products and their recycling.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said: “The time has come to put an end to the 'take, produce, break and throw' model, which is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy. Today's proposals will ensure that only the most sustainable products are sold in Europe and will enable consumers to save energy, repair and not replace broken products and make smart environmental choices when buying new ones.'

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Sustainable products: sustainable products
From smartphones to home appliances, all the products we use have an impact on the environment and must become more sustainable (Photo: Pexels)

The construction and textile sectors in the spotlight

The standards outlined in the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative will cover all consumer products, but there are two sectors that have earned special mention.

Textile production in Europe is among the activities that have the greatest impact on thetechnology, ranking fourth after thesupply, construction and mobility sectors. Furthermore, it is the third sector for the use of water and soil, and the fifth for the use of primary raw materials.

The EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles aims to address this issue by setting an ambitious goal: by 2030 all textile products placed on the EU market must be recyclable, made from recycled fibers as much as possible and produced in compliance social rights and the environment. This will lead to high quality and durability textiles, to a reduction of fast fashion and to cost-effective reuse and repair services.

Construction has also come under the spotlight. About half of the resources extracted and consumed and more than 30 per cent of the total waste produced annually by the EU are attributable to property, which also account for 40 percent of energy consumption and 36 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

For this reason, there will be new requirements in the package of measures to make construction products greener, more resistant and easy to repair and recycle, as well as clearer rules for manufacturers and new digital tools to make things easier for small businesses. In essence, the overhaul will make the construction sector more sustainable and easier to manage.

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Sustainable products: textile sector
The textile sector is third in Europe for the use of water and soil (Photo: iStock)

Reuse and recycle: towards a circular economy

La Commission based the proposals in the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative on the success of existing EU eco-design rules, which have already resulted in significant benefits both for thetechnology than for consumers. In 2021 alone, ecodesign requirements saved European citizens €120 billion, and resulted in a 10 percent reduction in annual energy consumption for the products concerned.

By 2030, the new framework will ensure savings of 132 Mtoe of primary energy, equal to approximately 150 billion m3 of natural gas, almost equivalent to the import of Russian gas into the EU.

The EU's approach will therefore be twofold: on the one hand, it will try to place on the market products made with materials and production processes be sustainable, while on the other we will continue to encourage the recycling, reuse and correct disposal of products at the end of their life cycle. 

Fortunately, there are already several companies that are moving in this direction. There New Chemical for example, specializing in surface treatment, it has fully embraced the circular economy. Thanks to the choice of ingredients be sustainable and the adoption of practices that have reduced plastic packaging by 30 percent, represents a business model that demonstrates a concrete commitment totechnology.

The circular economy is the key to a sustainable future, and Europe is moving towards eco-friendly products and processes that can make a difference for the planet and citizens.

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The "Sustainable Product Policy Initiative" illustrated by the European Commission

Sustainable products: construction
Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the EU's energy consumption and 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (Photo: iStock)