On May 27, 2024, the Council of Europe announced that member states have approved new regulations for an “Ecodesign” framework that sets sustainability requirements for almost all products across the European Union, and introduced a new ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear.

The Council of Europe’s announcement marks the final major step towards the adoption of the new regulations, following the European Parliament’s approval of the new Ecodesign rules in April.

The adoption of the new rules follows the European Commission’s first proposal in March 2022, aimed at improving the sustainability profile of a wide range of product categories by setting rules to make them more environmentally friendly, circular, and energy-efficient throughout their life cycles. This regulation replaces the existing Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC, which was limited to energy-related products, while the 2009/125/EC Ecodesign Directive will remain in force during this process.

The provisions of this directive require setting implementation priorities through regularly updated work plans, to review progress and establish indicative priorities for new energy-related product groups to be considered.

The Ecodesign and energy labelling work plan for 2022-2024 builds on the work done since the adoption of the first Ecodesign Directive. Additionally, it includes some work under the 2017/1369 Energy Labelling Framework Regulation and reviews the progress recorded with the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL). The plan also includes similar work on tyre labelling, which has a specific legal basis.

The 2022-2024 work plan covers new energy-related products and updates and increases targets for already regulated products as an interim measure until the new regulation comes into force. The plan addresses consumer electronics, including the fastest-growing waste streams such as smartphones, tablets, and solar panels.

The updated regulation gives the European Commission the authority to set ecodesign requirements for products to improve environmental sustainability across almost all product categories, except for motor vehicles covered by separate legislation and products affecting defense or national security.

The framework will allow for the establishment of a wide range of requirements, including:

  • Product durability, reusability, upgradability, and repairability
  • Presence of substances that inhibit circularity
  • Energy and resource efficiency
  • Recycled content
  • Remanufacturing and recycling
  • Carbon and environmental footprints
  • Information requirements, including a Digital Product Passport

Sustainability considerations under the updated regulation range from product durability, reusability, upgradability, and repairability, to the use of substances that inhibit circularity, energy and resource efficiency, recycled content, remanufacturing, and recycling, as well as the carbon and environmental footprints of products.

The regulation also aims to help consumers and businesses make informed choices when purchasing products by providing information about the environmental sustainability of products through a new “Digital Product Passport.” The Digital Product Passport will offer easily accessible information by scanning a data carrier and will include attributes such as product durability and repairability, recycled content, or the availability of spare parts. This aims to help consumers and businesses make informed choices, facilitate repairs and recycling, and increase transparency about the environmental life cycle impacts of products. Additionally, the Digital Product Passport will assist public authorities in better conducting inspections and controls. The European Commission is called upon to manage a publicly accessible web portal providing information about the environmental sustainability of products.

International Perspective on Ecodesign

The rules proposed under the Ecodesign Framework will apply to all products placed on the EU market, regardless of whether they are produced within or outside the EU.

The Ecodesign Framework will comply with international trade rules, and the EU will continue to collaborate with producer countries that share its goal of increasing product sustainability.

Moreover, the EU will provide support to partner countries and comprehensively assess the potential impacts on third countries. In this context, new measures like the Digital Product Passport will be developed in open dialogue with international partners to help remove trade barriers for greener products and reduce costs for sustainable investments, marketing, and compliance.

The new rules banning the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear will come into effect two years after the regulation enters into force, with some exemptions for small and micro-enterprises and a six-year exemption for medium-sized companies.

The regulation also mandates reporting on the quantities and reasons for the destruction of unsold goods, while adding additional product categories to the ban on destroying unsold products.