Transitioning the EU into a climate-neutral, circular economy is a key objective of the European Green Deal. In this context, the EU now wants to further assess and address the environmental impact of various products.
In response to this challenge, the Commission has adopted a package of measures to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. The key piece of this new legislative initiative is the ESPR.
In the ESPR, the approach developed in the ED (which remained limited in scope and impact) shall now be applied to a much broader range of products and enable to set a wide range of targeted ecodesign requirements. Not only shall products be made more energy and resource-efficient but also more durable, reliable, reusable, up-gradable, reparable, recyclable and easier to maintain. The ESPR thus builds up on the sustainability and circularity aspects listed in the EU's Circular Economy Action Plan and complements and strengthen its requirements.
With only few exceptions, the ESPR will apply to almost all types of products placed on the market in the EU, including product components and intermediary products. Covered products will, for instance, include consumer electronics, household appliances, commercial machinery, toys, furniture and textiles. Based on currently available information, the few product categories out of scope will include food, feed, medicinal products as well as products with an impact on defense and national security. In addition, motor vehicles will be out of scope insofar as they are already regulated in other EU legislation (e.g., the harmonized EU type-approval framework).
Under the agreed legislative initiative the EU Commission is set to introduce the new sustainability requirements through delegated acts, gradually covering different products and product groups. An initial emphasis will be put on environmentally impactful products including certain important vehicle parts and accessories like, e.g., iron and steel, aluminium, tires (which have also already been subject to the ED) paints, lubricants, and chemicals. In the upcoming years, new additional product categories will be defined. As per the EU Commission’s Working Plan, this shall potentially include further automotive and mobility equipment such as electric vehicle chargers which will trigger further relevance of the ESPR for the mobility and automotive sector.
The ESPR will address all kinds of economic operators along supply and distribution chains, including manufacturers, importers, distributors, dealer and marketplaces.
The main ecodesign requirements set out in the ESPR can be categorized as product design requirements and information requirements:
- The product design requirements are intended to enhance the sustainability and circularity of covered products during their whole life cycle and will include requirements on product durability, reusability, upgradability and reparability, presence of substances that inhibit circularity, energy and resource efficiency, recycled content, remanufacturing, recycling and the destruction of consumer products. Also, a ban on the destruction of unsold clothing and footwear will be introduced.
- The information requirements will include requirements on the content of the information that must be provided as well as the way in which it must be provided. In particular, a Digital Product Passport with certain sustainability information will be introduced. With this passport, it shall be possible to easily electronically register, process and share product-related sustainability information amongst all businesses in the supply chain, authorities and consumers. For instance, information on the durability and reparability, the recycled content or the availability of spare parts of a product may be included in the passport.
The implementation of the new ecodesign requirements for the covered products will be facilitated by the EU Commission gradually through delegated acts based on a regularly updated list of prioritized product groups.
Relation to other Legislation
The broad scope of the proposed new ecodesign framework raises questions about the potential overlap and interrelation with existing product specific legislation as well as legislation addressing horizontal ecodesign aspects for a wide range of products.
- Existing product specific legislation that already contains certain ecodesign requirements for specific product groups includes the new Regulation on Batteries and Waste Batteries, the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive, the Tyre Labelling Regulation and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.
- Legislation that already addresses certain horizontal ecodesign aspects for a wide range of products particularly includes EU Chemicals and Waste legislation (e.g., the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (“REACH”), the Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (“RoHS”) and the Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemicals (“CLP”)) as well as Energy Labelling Legislation (e.g., the Energy Labelling Framework Regulation).
In order to avoid duplicative or contradictory requirements, the general approach will be that the ESPR will only set requirements where existing legislation does not, or only insufficiently addresses environmental sustainability aspects. Therefore, the EU Commission is expected to assess any potential overlap or conflict with existing legislation when setting up the concrete requirements in the product-specific deleted acts.
As a next step, the ESPR has to be formally adopted and will then enter into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal. After the entry into force of the ESPR, the Commission may start with adopting working plans to specify the prioritised products for which delegated acts will first be adopted. Until the ESPR enters into force, the current ecodesign framework under the ED and its implementing acts will remain applicable for energy-related products. The ESPR may then extend existing requirements for energy-related products already covered by the ED and adopt new ones for new kinds of products.
It remains to be seen which products will first be targeted under the new ecodesign framework, what exact requirements will be set out in the delegated acts and how potential conflicts with existing legislation will be resolved.
In any case, it already seems clear that the new ecodesign framework will have a significant impact on most industries, including the automotive and mobility sector. We thus advise to start preparing for the new requirements early on.
Authored by Patrick Ayad, Susanne Schuster, Corbinian Schwaab and Lisa-Marie Koop.