Closing the Loop: Computers, Furniture, Footwear
BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – The European Commission has adopted a new set of ecological criteria for the award of EU Ecolabel status to makers of personal, notebook and tablet computers, as well as to makers of furniture and footwear.
Producers who wish to enjoy the benefits of displaying the EU Ecolabel not only have to comply with strict requirements that focus on environmental performance, but also must ensure that their products are safe and manufactured with respect for human rights and labor rights.
“The EU Ecolabel promotes Europe’s transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption,” said Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
Last December, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to an economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.
The package is intended to help close the loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.
This transition is being supported financially by European Structural and Investment Funds: €650 million from Horizon 2020, the EU funding program for research and innovation; €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management; as well as investments in the circular economy at the national level.
The new Ecolabel criteria are intended to help shoppers choose computers, furniture and footwear that tread lightly on the Earth.
“Thanks to transparent ecological criteria, consumers can make conscious choices, without compromising on the quality of the products,” Vella said.
“The Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources,” he said.
On August 10, the Commission adopted new ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for computers.
The revised criteria aim to encourage and promote products that have a lower environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development along their life cycle, are energy efficient, durable, repairable and upgradeable. The emission of hazardous substances during both manufacture and use of the product must be minimized.
At the end of their useful life, Ecolabeled products should be easy to dismantle and recover resources from for re-use or recycling.
The Commission’s decision will apply on October 10, two months after its adoption date, but the rule allows a transitional period to give manufacturers a chance to adjust.
On August 5, the Commission adopted the Ecolabel criteria for footwear. They require, among many other criteria, that only raw hides and skins from animals raised for milk or meat production be used in Ecolabel footwear products.
Footwear manufacturers must reduce water consumption, limit emissions of pollutants to water and restrict the tanning of hides and skins.
They will have to control emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce the number and intensity of hazardous substances in the shoe components, and no component shall be on the Restricted Substances List.
Finally, Ecolabel footwear must be durable, the manufacturers must demonstrate corporate social responsibility towards labor, and the packaging must be sustainably sourced.
Furniture manufacturers will have to conduct a more comprehensive life cycle assessment, and pay special attention to hazardous compounds and residues, which could contribute to indoor air pollution.
None of the adhesives, varnishes, paints, primers, wood stains, biocidal products (such as wood preservatives), flame retardants, fillers, waxes, oils, joint fillers, sealants, dyestuff, resins or lubricating oils directly used by an Ecolabel furniture manufacturer can be listed as most hazardous by the 2008 EU regulation on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of chemical substances and mixtures.
The Commission acknowleged that the use of chemicals and release of pollutants are “part of the production process,” for furniture. Still, the Commission’s decision tries to cover all the bases, saying that for a product to be awarded Ecolabel status, “the use of hazardous substances are excluded whenever possible or limited to the minimum necessary to provide an adequate function and at the same time strict quality and safety standards for furniture products.”
In an effort to ensure sustainable sourcing of all wood, cork, bamboo and rattan used in Ecolabel furniture, the Commission decided that each material must be covered by a chain of custody certificate issued by an independent third party certification scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
There cannot be any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in EU Ecolabel furniture. All virgin wood, cork, bamboo and rattan shall not originate from a GMO-free species and must be covered by valid sustainable forest management certificates. All uncertified materials must, at least, be legally sourced.
The revised criteria for Ecolabel computers will be valid for three years, a short time period that takes into account the quick innovation cycle for this product group.
The criteria validity period is six years for furniture and footwear.