Textiles, Batteries and Packaging Targeted in the EU’s Plan to halve Waste by 2030
10 March 2020
As part of its new “Green Deal”, the European Union is planning a new initiative to halve waste by 2030 by prioritising the recycling of textiles, batteries and packaging. The European Commission is expected to present ways of achieving this goal under the Circular Economy Action Plan, expected to be published on 10 March 2020, with a particular focus on prolonging the life of products, and encouraging consumers to choose repairing devices over purchasing brand new ones.
Hong Kong traders may find it interesting that this new initiative coincides with a campaign for sustainable smartphones launched in early February 2020 by Right to Repair Europe, a coalition of NGOs, community groups and small businesses. The campaign’s letter to the European Commission states that “the annual climate impact of Europe’s stock of over 600 million smartphones is more than 14 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is more than the annual emissions of Latvia.” It also identifies that, due to the energy intensive processes and rare materials involved in the production of smartphones, 80% of the direct impact of smartphones on the climate result from the manufacturing stage. Such impact is supposedly made worse by the shorter lifetime of smartphones compared to other household electronics.
As a result, the campaign calls on the EU to commit to the “swift development” of setting minimum manufacturing requirements for the design and after-sales support of smartphones in the forthcoming Circular Economy Action Plan. Such manufacturing requirements would compel companies, such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei to design smartphones in such a way as to make repairs easier for consumers. Examples of how this could be achieved include making the repair of smartphones compatible with readily available tools, or providing spare parts and repair manuals to consumers. The campaign stresses that this would improve the availability and affordability of repair services, and reduce overall waste.
While it is unclear, at this stage, whether the European Commission will propose the same manufacturing requirements as the coalition’s campaign, as outlined above, to tackle waste by 2030 in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the coalition has been successful in the past in bringing about right to repair requirements for home appliances. On 1 October 2019, the EU adopted 10 ecodesign implementing regulations, which set out energy efficiency standards and other environmental requirements of manufacturers selling their products on the EU market.
Hong Kong traders may also like to know that further pressure may also come, in particular, from France, which has adopted its first anti-waste law very recently, i.e., in January 2020. This law foresees the banning of all disposable plastics by 2040. The Junior environment minister for France, Brune Poirson, stated that the new French law would tighten regulations around waste from electronics and unsold stocks in the fashion industry. The new law also targets disposable cutlery in fast food restaurants, packaging for household and skincare products, plastic tea bags and confetti. Some bans on plastic items take effect as of January 2021. France has, in addition, been a leading player in the fight against waste pollution in waters and oceans. It was the first country in the world to commit to introducing filters on new washing machines from January 2025 to minimise the spread of plastic microfibers from synthetic clothing.
The vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who is also leading the EU’s Green Deal, has reported that increasing the share of materials recycled and recovered in the EU is essential as otherwise “by 2050 we would need three planets to sustain our consumption habits.” In addition, Timmermans stated that " [the Green Deal is] not about forcing our citizens to go live in caves and eat grass, it's about ensuring a high level of comfort, of development in a new economy".
Hong Kong traders should therefore be prepared for the EU to very likely impose new right to repair requirements for certain products placed on the EU market, as part of its forthcoming Circular Economy Action Plan of reducing waste by 2030 in the new Green Deal. The European Commission is expected to present the details of the Plan on 10 March 2020.
- Garments, Textiles & Accessories
- Electronics & Electrical Appliances