On 30 March 2022, the European Union (“EU”) unveiled a new proposal for a regulation establishing eco-design requirements for sustainable products (“ESPR”). This piece of regulation will form a part of the European Green Deal, which also forms part the European Union’s (“EU”) Sustainability Initiative in the Circular Economy Action Plan (“CEAP”).
The ESPR aims to establish a framework setting ecodesign requirements targeted at regulating manufacturers, dealers, importers and distributors. It also extends the scope of the Ecodesign Directive from energy-related products to all products (save for food, feed and medicines). At present, the EU has no specific requirements governing the circularity process (i.e., durability, reparability, recyclability and recycled content). This is targeted at improving a product’s circularity, energy performance and environmental sustainability aspects across a product’s whole lifecycle. Regulatory gaps following the ESPR’s adoption will be filled through secondary legislation setting ecodesign performance requirements for textile products, information requirements, and issuance of a Digital Product Passport.
There are four key regulatory elements under the ESPR. These are set out in more detail below.
1. Ecodesign Requirement
The ESPR aims to impose ecodesign regulations on products intended for the EU market. Ecodesign requirements will cover product durability, reliability, reusability, upgradability, reparability, ease of maintenance, and refurbishment. In addition, it covers the restriction on presence of substances that inhibit the circularity of products and materials. Energy / resource use and efficiency of products is covered. Regulations over the end-of-lifecycle process such as ease of disassembly, remanufacturing, and recycling of products and materials is also covered.
2. Digital Product Passports
Digital Product Passports will soon be the norm for all products regulated under the ESPR. Products with digital passports will be tagged, identified, and linked to data relevant to their circularity and sustainability. For each product group, these passports will help enable consumer choices, improve transparency for public interest groups, help national authorities in enforcement and surveillance work and improve circularity of the products along the value chain.
3. Prevention of Destruction of Consumer Goods
The ESPR includes measures to prevent and stop the destruction of unsold consumer goods by requiring businesses to disclose discarded products on a public website. There are also requirements to state the reason for discarding products and the volumes which are discarded. Note SMEs are exempted from the abovementioned exemptions. Conversely, large corporations cannot escape these rules by creating specific companies which work with the destruction of unsold goods.
4. Public Procurement
With the final requirement, the ESPR aims to leverage the weight of public spending to boost demand for more environmentally sustainable products. It does this through setting mandatory criteria for the public procurement of sustainable products. As a result, contracting authorities would be required to use green procurement criteria to purchase specific groups of products.
Note the ESPR is currently under negotiations in the Counsel and the European Parliament respectively. At earliest, the ESPR will be adopted in 2023, depending on how the negotiations proceed. Sweden will most likely prioritise the negotiations of the ESPR during its EU presidency. After the adoptions of the ESPR, rules will be developed by the European Commission in relation to specific product groups. Specific rules concerning textiles are expected to be put in place at earliest in 2024.