The importance of ecodesign in circular economy

The importance of ecodesign in circular economy

All products have an impact on the environment during their life-cycle, from the use of raw materials and resources, through manufacturing, packaging, transport, disposal and recycling. These negative effects include the energy used, waste materials and hazardous substances released during the extraction, processing and transporting, the energy used by the product during its active life, and the waste products and energy used when the product is disposed of. According to the European Commission, 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the design phase of a product. So, by implementing ecodesign at the initial stages of product design, the energy consumed or lost through the entire life cycle of products should be much lower.

Ecodesign is the systematic integration of environmental aspects into product design with the aim to improve the environmental performance of the product throughout its life cycle.

Framework for mandatory ecological requirements for all energy-related products has been set by the Ecodesign Directive from 2009. It provides consistent rules for improving the environmental performance of those products, with the Energy Labelling Regulation complementing those Ecodesign requirements with mandatory labelling requirements.Manufacturers and importers are therefore required to ensure their products meet the requirements of the Ecodesign directive and accompanying regulations.

Ecodesign Directive covers all energy-related products:

• energy-using products: products which use, generate, transfer or measure energy including consumer goods such as refrigerators, computers, TVs, washing machines, light bulbs and industrial products (transformers, industrial fans) etc.

• other energy related products: products which do not necessarily use energy, but have an impact on energy consumption and can contribute to saving energy, such as windows, insula­tion material or bathroom devices (shower heads, taps)

A good example can be found in gradual elimination of incandescent light bulbs, which started in 2009 under this Directive. This one measure is expected to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 16 million tons in 2020.

It's important to say that ecodesign requirements do not lower the functionality of a product, its safety, or have a negative impact on its affordability for consumers. In addition, they must remain cost-effective, avoiding any excessive administrative burden for the manufacturers. Also, harmonisation of rules at EU level ensures that no differing national ecodesign measures oblige manufacturers to comply with conflicting regulations or interfere with the free movement of goods.

With the increased awareness of human impact on the environment, there is an ever-growing need for more efficient products to reduce energy and resource consumption. The EU legislation on Ecodesign and energy labelling is an effective tool for improving the energy efficiency of products, significantly contributing to the EU 2020 Energy Strategy and EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy.

Author: Marina Tomić (The Croatian Institute for CSR)