A mound of electronic waste

Right to repair plan empowers EU consumers

The European Commission has adopted the EU’s new Circular Economy Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal – an agenda for sustainable growth first presented in 2019.

The new plan focuses on design and production for a circular economy, with the aim of ensuring that the resources used are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible. Using measures along the entire manufacturing and retail life cycle, it aims to strengthen competitiveness and product quality, while safeguarding the environment and giving new rights to consumers. 

These rights include protection against ‘greenwashing’ and premature obsolescence, and minimum requirements for sustainability. Consumers will also benefit from a new ‘right to repair’ and have access to reliable information on the reparability and durability of products to help them make environmentally-sustainable choices.

Global consumption of materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and minerals is expected to double in the next 40 years, while annual waste generation is projected to increase by 70 per cent by 2050. Half of total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90 per cent of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and processing.

Scaling up the circular economy, an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources, is seen as essential to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and, crucially, to decoupling economic growth from resource use. It will also have net positive benefits in terms of GDP growth and job creation for the EU, says the plan. 

Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “To achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, to preserve our natural environment, and to strengthen our economic competitiveness, requires a fully circular economy.

“Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12 per cent of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy. Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers.

“With this plan we launch action to transform the way products are made and empower consumers to make sustainable choices for their own benefit and that of the environment.”

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