Friday

5th Mar 2021

Circular economy leak: New rules on recyclable TV screens

  • Commission wants 'to make it easier and safer to dismantle, re-use and recycle electronic displays (e.g. flat computer or television screens)' (Photo: Clemens v. Vogelsang)

The European Commission is considering to require manufacturers of flat-screen computer monitors and televisions that their products can be easier to re-use and recycle, as part of its circular economy strategy.

The commission is due to present its paper on the circular economy next month, but a draft version was leaked and seen by this website.

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“The objective of a circular economy is to preserve and maintain the value of products, materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible, while minimising the generation of waste,” the text said.

The 22-page leak was undated and had some references between brackets, which means that some content may still change. But it gives an indication of the direction of commission thinking.

It noted that the circular economy strategy included “key legislative proposals on waste, fertilisers, and water reuse; strong commitments on Ecodesign; the development of strategic approaches on plastics and chemicals; a major initiative to fund innovative projects under the umbrella of Horizon 2020; targeted action in areas such as food waste, critical raw materials, industrial and mining waste, consumption, public procurement, and others.”

One of the features of a circular economy - a theoretical concept where materials are re-used and recycled rather than thrown away - is to improve product design, to “make products more durable or easier to repair, upgrade or remanufacture.”

The paper said incentives are needed for industry to achieve this, and that the commission wishes to provide those incentives through the "Ecodesign" directive, a framework legislation which allows it to set standards on efficient energy use for several groups of products.

“To date, Ecodesign requirements have mainly targeted energy efficiency; in the future, issues such as reparability, durability, recyclability, or the identification of certain materials or substances will be systematically examined, taking into account the specificities and challenges of different product groups and in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders," the paper notes.

“As a first step, the commission has developed and will propose shortly to Member States mandatory product design and marking requirements to make it easier and safer to dismantle, re-use and recycle electronic displays (e.g. flat computer or television screens).”

The paper also showed that the commission does not necessarily want to take sole responsibility for the circular economy.

“The action plan focusses on areas in which action at EU level will have the greatest impact and make most sense. Making the circular economy a reality will require long-term involvement at all levels, from Member States, regions and cities, to businesses and citizens.”

Since the commission does not have all the political tools available, it also calls on national governments to introduce measures, for example “to provide incentives and use economic instruments, such as taxation, to ensure that product prices better reflect environmental costs."

It did promise to “lead by example” by making sure that “a special emphasis is placed on aspects relevant to the circular economy, such as durability and reparability, when setting out or revising criteria” for public procurement.

It is yet unclear what the commission will propose regarding waste.

Shortly after taking office, Jean-Claude Juncker's commission announced it would withdraw a package of rules on reducing waste, but following criticism, said it would introduce “a broader, more ambitious” package.

While the leaked paper mentioned “a revised legislative proposal on waste” several times, those bits were between brackets, indicating that a final decision had not yet been taken at the time of drafting.

Meanwhile, it appears a group of green groups have also seen a draft version of the document.

The NGOs Seas at Risk, Friends of the Earth Europe, and the European Environmental Bureau, wrote an open letter to Juncker last Thursday (12 November), to “express support for the inclusion of urgent action on marine litter” in the strategy paper.

The version this website saw, did not include specific targets, but rather said the commission will “take action to fulfil the objective of reducing marine litter."

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