EC product passports 'will promote circular supply chains'

By Sean Ashcroft
EC's Digital Product Passport scheme will list a product's component parts, to make recycling more likely and help EU nations hit net zero targets

The European Commission (EC) is set to introduce a Digital Product Passport (DPP) that will contain information about the makeup of goods. The move is designed to promote sustainability across the supply chain.

The passport, which the EC says will be introduced early next year, is designed to provide consistent information about products “across the value chain and across borders, to business, customers and authorities”, the EC says.

The move is part of the EC’s Sustainable Products Initiative, which itself stems from the Circular Economy Action Plan

EC product passports for clothes, electronics

The EC says it will deploy DPPs for consumer electronics, batteries, ICT, textiles and furniture, as well as for “high-impact intermediary products”, like steel, cement and chemicals. 

The idea is to identify the most important information about the constituent parts of a product “so that users across the supply chain can reuse it or treat it correctly at waste management facilities”.

The DPP is part of the global move to net zero by 2050, a goal most EU member states have already enshrined in law. Tackling overconsumption and waste will be key to achieving net zero targets. The DPP is designed to help on this front in two ways:

  • By facilitating the switch to sustainable, long-lasting products.
  • By slowing down the use of resources as they flow through the economy. 

Circular economy needs durable products

“We need to make sure the products in our markets are durable and repairable,” said William Neale, EC circular economy adviser. “This is what we tried to do in the sustainable product initiative.”

At present, Neale pointed out, goods are produced, bought and sold, and the information about their components and recyclability is lost. The passport will address this by “harnessing the data for public good,” he said.

Neale added that often it is a single element of a product that makes it impossible to recycle. He said the DPP will “identify those bits of information that are killers in terms of ruining value”. Neale cited textiles as an example of this, where PVC prints on garments are a barrier to recyclability.

It is also hoped that the DPP will help prevent ‘greenwashing’ - the practice whereby businesses talk the talk on sustainability, but don’t walk the walk.

But Neale did admit the EC faces a stiff challenge. “Identifying the information that users across the supply chain require is a huge amount of work,” he said. “Because of this, we will deal with things product by product.”

Supply chain stakeholders set for talks

He also said implementing circular economy initiatives in the EU will require key stakeholders across the supply chain to “sit down and discuss the crucial information that could prevent a product from going to waste”.

He added such discussions could also ease concerns in some quarters that DPPs might contain information that breaches intellectual property (IP) rights.

“When it comes to IP, we need to make sure this is dealt with either through encryption or through making data available at a later stage,” said Neale.

 

 

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