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New EU Rules Set to Make Sustainable Products the Norm

In a groundbreaking move for sustainability, the EU Parliament and Council have struck a provisional deal to overhaul the ecodesign framework for sustainable products. The agreement reached on 4 December 2023 focuses on enhancing various aspects of products throughout their lifecycle. The aim is to make them more durable, reliable, and environmentally friendly, encouraging reusability, upgrades, repairs, and recycling while reducing resource, energy, and water consumption.

A vital aspect of the update is addressing premature obsolescence, where products become non-functional due to factors like design features, unavailability of consumables, or lack of software updates. The Commission will outline specific product requirements through secondary legislation.

Notably, the negotiators, driven by Parliament's initiative, have identified priority product groups in the first working plan. These include iron, steel, aluminium, textiles (especially garments and footwear), furniture, tires, detergents, paints, lubricants, and chemicals.

The agreement introduces digital "product passports" to provide accurate and up-to-date information to empower consumers. Consumers can access the Commission's public web portal to compare and search information included in these passports, enabling more informed purchasing choices.

Another crucial aspect addresses the issue of unsold consumer products. Economic operators must now report annually on the quantities and reasons for discarding unsold goods. The agreement explicitly bans destroying unsold apparel, clothing accessories, and footwear two years after the legislation enters into force (six years for medium-sized enterprises).

These efforts aim to break away from the harmful "take, make, dispose" model. The revised framework ensures that new products benefit all stakeholders, respect the planet, and protect the environment.

The background of this transformative move dates back to March 30, 2022, when the Commission proposed a regulation to establish a general framework for ecodesign requirements, moving beyond the focus on energy-related products and contributing to a circular economy package. The following steps involve formal approval from both Parliament and the Council after completing technical-level work before the agreement can come into force.

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