27 July 2020

Setting the bar for a true circular economy – ECOS calls for new standards in clothing, common chargers and more

ECOS sent comments to the preliminary draft 2021 Annual Union Work Programme (AUWP) for Standardisation – the document where the European Commission set its plans for new standardisation requests every year.

Standards can play a key role in paving the way to a real circular economy and a future of net-zero emissions. There are plenty of examples that prove this. Take waste management: if we had universal packaging formats for bottles, containers, crates or boxes, they would be much easier to recycle and reuse. Following a similar logic, standards help move from talk to action in many cases: from plastics to textiles management, to energy efficiency of displays, kettles or vacuum cleaners.

The European Commission knows this – and every year it issues a number of standardisation requests to European organisations in charge of setting these technical rules, namely CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. These forthcoming requests are announced every year in the 2021 Annual Union Work Programme (AUWP) for Standardisation.

This year’s plan foresees standardisation requests that will come in support of the European Green Deal and underpinning initiatives such as the Circular Economy Action Plan. Some of the main requests for standards will focus on energy efficiency measuring in displays, light sources, industrial fans, commercial fridges.

The document is currently in a draft state as the Commission has asked for opinions to different organisations that participate in standard setting, including ECOS – as per the common yearly process. As a response, at ECOS we have sent the Commission a nine-page report with our comments.

In our document, we offer our own proposals and signal missing points. Our suggestions cover a wide range of sectors, from plastics, waste and textile, to several ecodesign products, industrial emissions, transport and sustainable finance. To make sure that the standards developed will be according to the appropriate specifications and delivered in a timely manner, we also call on the European Commission to issue Standardisation Requests that are robust and comprehensive.

We mainly urge the Commission to submit standardisation requests for:

  • Measurement of fibre wear-off during a washing cycle, as a helpful tool to limit unintentionally released microplastics from washing.
  • Test methods for the measurement of tyre abrasion and mileage as a first step to enable their inclusion as parameters into the tyre label. A harmonised test method for the measurement of tyre abrasion is crucial to help consumers choose tyres that shed less microplastics.
  • A wide range of products under the Ecodesign directive, considering its strategic position in the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. , to support the plans for a sustainable product policy framework. Standards will need to be developed or updated to offer more holistic methods of assessing a wider range of sustainability aspects, such as material efficiency.
  • Standards on performance characteristics and waste management at each stage of construction (e.g. planning phase, on-site, and material & product take-back solutions), as well as standards to improve repairability, durability, building assessment, deconstruction, reusability, and recyclability of materials.
  • On textiles, methods to assess material efficiency aspects as the durability, repairability and recyclability, as well as the determination of recycled content, presence of chemicals and the quantification of the shedding of microfibres.
  • On chargers, a standardised fast charge protocol which would ensure greater consistency of charging performance across different cables and prevent proliferation of incompatible chargers.
  • Quality standards for secondary critical raw materials.

Read our full position document here.


ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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