The EU commission has just adopted a new circular economy action plan, with the aim of encouraging a greener, more sustainable approach to product design.
Although not cemented into legislation yet, it looks like some regulation will sprout from the action plan, which will guide the rules around electronics.
The EU’s newly adopted plan encourages the kind of economy where you won’t have to bin your blower every time it reaches the end of its lifetime. Instead, the commission is hoping to create a future where products are easy to reuse, recycle and upgrade. Crucially, products should be durable too – so we may eventually be treated to an Apple charger that lasts longer than a month.
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Electronics and ICT are clearly priorities for the commission, which has promised to launch “concrete action” in this area by creating a new Circular Electronics Initiative. These kind of plans aren’t likely to align with those of big companies like Samsung and Apple, which enjoy cranking out new phone models every year that are stubbornly fixed and unalterable in design.
One company that’s feeling easy-breezy about the whole situation is Fairphone, as it already focuses on creating phones that are recyclable, upgradeable and modular.
Miquel Ballester, Circular Innovation Lead at Fairphone, says: “From the beginning, we’ve promoted modularity, reparability and recyclability for the smartphone – and the electronics industry as a whole.
“With this announcement, our mission statement has been taken up at the highest level and could be turned into legislation. It would require manufacturers to make electronics that are easily repairable, particularly batteries, and provide software upgrades for longer – supporting us in our quest to extend the lifespan of electronics.”
The action plan is less likely to receive as glowing a reaction from other big tech producers. Apple strongly objected when the EU commission demanded that all phone chargers be made uniform, saying at the time: “We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.”
We’ve reached out to both Apple and Samsung for comment on the new EU action plan.