New rules could spell the death of a “throwaway” culture in which products are bought, used briefly, then binned. The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items such as mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging. They will ensure products are designed and manufactured so they last – and so they’re repairable if they go wrong.
It should mean that your phone lasts longer and proves easier to fix. That may be especially true if the display or the battery needs changing. It’s part of a worldwide movement called the Right to Repair, which has spawned citizens’ repair workshops in several UK cities.
The plan is being presented by the European Commission. It’s likely to create standards for the UK, too – even after Brexit. That’s because it probably won’t be worthwhile for manufacturers to make lower-grade models that can only be sold in Britain.
It’s all part of what one green group is calling the most ambitious and comprehensive proposal ever put forward to reduce the environmental and climate impact of the things we use and wear. Proposals aim at making environmentally-friendly products the norm. It could mean manufacturers using screws to hold parts in place, rather than glue.
The rules will also fight what is known as “premature obsolescence”, the syndrome in which manufacturers make goods with deliberately low lifespan to force consumers into buying a newer model.
One green group, the European Environment Bureau (EEB), said: “The strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manufacture, use and dispose of our products in a way that benefits people and the planet.”
It urges Europe’s politicians to turn the plans into reality.
The EU also wants to set a food waste reduction target, end over-packaging, and curb microplastic pollution. Other recommendations under the proposals, known as the Circular Economy Action Plan, are:
- increasing recycled content in products
- reducing the impact of products on the climate and environment
- providing incentives for a new type of consumer use where producers keep the ownership of the product or the responsibility for its performance throughout its lifecycle – similar to car leasing
The idea is to encourage manufacturers to make sure things don’t break – because they’ll have to pick up the bill for repair or replacement.