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Consumers in the European Union will have an automatic right to have their devices repaired rather than throw them away under a new initiative unveiled by the European Commission today.

The Circular Economy Action Plan, designed to end the ‘throw-away society’ and encourage reuse and recycling, contains provisions to ensure consumers have access to reliable information on issues such as the reparability and durability of products to help them make environmentally sustainable choices. This, it is hoped, will both reduce waste and lower carbon emissions.

“Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12% of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy,” explained Frans Timmermans, the Commission Vice President for the Green Deal. “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.”

Studies have shown that consumers are confused about how to repair broken appliances and electronics, and the costs are often far more than the cost of buying a new product. The appliance and electronics industries have been accused of deliberately engineering “planned obsolescence” into products, designing them to break down more often than they used to so their customers will buy another one – though this has never been definitely proven.

Today’s strategy would, among several initiatives, require that EU countries lower or completely reduce sales tax on repair services. It would also require repair centers to be set up so consumers can easily identify how to repair, and find the least costly option.

The plan was welcomed by both consumer advocates and the business community. But both warned the devil will be in the details.

“A comprehensive upstream approach ensuring products are durable, repairable and re-useable is timely,” said Mathieu Rama, a senior policy officer with RREUSE, an NGO which represents social enterprises active in the field of re-use, repair and recycling in Europe and the United States.


“Whilst tackling design of electrical products remains a priority, we welcome indications that other product categories such as textiles and furniture will also be addressed within a new Sustainable Product Policy.”

“A lower or zero VAT rate on repair services is key in improving their accessibility to consumers and should also be extended to the sale of used goods,” he added.

Markus Beyrer, the director general of industry association BusinessEurope, said the plan goes in the right direction. “Today Europe wastes up to €4.8 billion annually due to non-compliance with the EU’s existing waste legislation,” he said. “Minimising waste generation and maintaining the value of raw materials and products for as long as possible is therefore not just good for the environment, but it also makes business sense.”

The Commission will come forward with implementing legislation for the strategy which must be approved by the European Parliament and national EU governments, in the coming months.

Source: Forbes – Energy


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