A directive designed to drive forward energy efficiency standards in household products is due to be signed this week. The Eco-Design for Energy Using Products Framework Directive (EuP) means that a range of items, including electrical and electronic equipment, will be awarded an eco-label following assessment of their energy efficiency and recyclability.
The EuP is intended to provide coherent EU-wide rules for eco-design and ensure that disparities among national regulations do not become obstacles to intra-EU trade. Eco-design is the integration of environmental considerations at the design stage of a product, and it is hoped that this will prove to be a long-lasting contribution to securing energy supply and achieving sustainable development.
The directive does not introduce directly binding requirements for specific products, but does define conditions and criteria for setting requirements regarding environmentally relevant product characteristics such as energy or water consumption, waste generation and extension of lifetime and allows them to be improved quickly and efficiently.
By encouraging manufacturers to design products with the environmental impacts in mind throughout their entire lifecycle, the Commission is implementing an Integrated Product Policy (IPP) and is accelerating the move towards improving the environmental performance of energy-using products.
When the directive is adopted by the Council and European Parliament, the Commission will be able to enact implementing measures on specific products and environmental aspects following impact assessments and the consultation of interested parties.
There will not be obligations for all energy-using products, only for those meeting criteria such as important environmental impact, volume of trade in the internal market and clear potential for improvement - for example where market forces fail to make progress in the absence of a legal requirement.
This policy initiative is expected to increase the effectiveness of other EU legislation including the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment Directive, Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive and the Energy Labelling Directive.
Preparatory studies and impact assessment conducted by the Commission and involving groups such as industry, environmental and consumer NGOs will identify the most cost-effective solutions for improving the overall environmental performance of products.
The Commission cites the washing machine as an example of this assessment. Important aspects would include energy, water and detergent consumption, noise and recycling ability.
The analysis will identify how to achieve a high level of environmental performance during the device's lifecycle, while avoiding transfer of negative impact.
The Commission states: "Eco-design requirements will then become legally binding for all products, in this case washing machines, put on the EU market, irrespective of where they are designed and produced."
Overall, eco-design is intended to not only provide consumers and businesses with better products and improved environment, but will also benefit them econ