With growing public support for better-designed, longer-lasting products, the EU is taking steps to force manufacturers to make many everyday products more durable and repairable.
European leaders have agreed to introduce an upgraded EU Ecodesign Directive, which would include minimum resource efficiency requirements for household consumer products for the first time.
The rules will apply to a range of everyday products, including lighting, display screens and large household appliances from April 2021, but could be extended to other sectors in future in the UK.
For example, manufacturers will have to ensure that critical parts of products can be disassembled and repaired by professionals, rather than being glued or welded together. Producers will also have to make spare parts and repair manuals available to professional repairers.
Overwhelming public support
The move comes shortly after UK research revealed that the vast majority of people were ‘frustrated’ by modern products not lasting and believed that businesses should be required to provide repair, maintenance or disposal support for their products.
Chloe Fayole of ECOS, the European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation, said: “The agreement is a step in the right direction. From the US to Europe, people are demanding their right to repair the things they own because they’re tired of products that are designed to break prematurely. Enabling consumers to repair and reuse all electronic products is just common sense.”
What about Brexit?
The European Parliament is due to formally approve the new eco-design legislation in March 2019, coinciding with the UK’s planned withdrawal from the EU.
Nevertheless, speaking to BBC News, environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: "We are supporting measures in the [EU’s] new Ecodesign Directive product regulations to encourage repair and re-use of a range of products.”
In its recently-published Resources and Waste Strategy, the government also committed to “match or where economically practicable exceed” the EU’s Ecodesign standards, including legislating to expand the scope to cover more resource intensive product groups, such as textiles and furniture.