If you had to bury every product you’d ever bought before you purchased a new one,would you even have enough space in the garden to do it?
It’s enough to make you stop and think: how much space can the landfills really hold? Laptops, smartphones, servers and more all have increasingly short lifespans, or at least have a limited use phase – and it’s not like Earth is getting any bigger. While it’s a profitable model for the companies’ manufacturing these products, planned obsolescence with no emphasis on reusability – also known as a linear economy – is a death sentence for the environment.
The European Commission (EC) recognises that lack of sustainability and it’s why the Circular Economy Action Plan features prominently in the European Green Deal.
The new Circular Economy Action Plan starts with a sobering note: There is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three.
“The model of ‘take-make-use-dispose’ has reached its limits as it pushes us to a resource crisis,' Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Environment Commissioner, says.
Companies continue to produce at prolific rates and consumers are wholeheartedly buying in, both figuratively and literally. The new action plan takes aim at stopping this type of environmentally damaging behavior by introducing strong measures to govern and extend the life-cycle of products. At the core of the action plan is the idea of a circular economy, which severely curtails waste and consumption by embracing more sustainable practices.
Although the new plan represents several industries, electrical and ICT equipment feature prominently. By pivoting to a circular economy, the EC will:
· Work to extend product life-cycles, implementing critical elements for the ICT aftermarket.
· Set right-to-repair as a priority, including the right to update obsolete software.
· Expand the scope of the Ecodesign Directive to set requirements covering all ICT products.
· Review Intellectual Property policies, potentially opening the door to reconsider the IP Exhaustion law that enforces import restrictions.
· Enforce fundamental change to adopt elements of the circular economy, instead of catching low-hanging fruit.
· Focus on limiting resource consumption, rather than only limiting energy reduction.
The net result of all these actions? A potential windfall of 700,000 new jobs added to the EU economy, more empowered consumers and a better protected environment.
ICT is among the EC’s focus areas as it continues to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU.
Understanding that most consumers would like to continue using their electronics so long as the performance remains unaffected,the EC is introducing the ‘Circular Electronics Initiative’. Among other goals,it will:
· Set policies and frameworks within the Ecodesign Working Plan which demand that existing and new devices are designed for, “energy efficiency and durability, reparability, upgradability, maintenance, reuse and recycling.”
· Implement the ‘right to repair’ electronics and ICT from a physical and digital perspective.
The EC also plans to re-evaluate legislation surrounding intellectual property to ensure it’s fit for the modern era, which emphasises digital independence and the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy. As a result,policymakers will propose an Intellectual Property Strategy, which will ensure that intellectual property laws enable the circular economy rather than suppressing it and, in turn, new business models and support the green transition and EU businesses’ competitiveness.
The new Circular Economy Action Plan will bring fundamental change that’s disruptive at times – but is this radical change, or is it simply common sense that’snow being listened to? With all stakeholders on board, the action plan will be a tremendous boon to European consumers and businesses alike.
The future is rife with opportunity for independent providers and SMEs in the ICT industry. Free ICT is a stakeholder in several researches, policy developments and working groups to support the transition to a circular economy and will be closely involved with new discussions and actions set for the second half of 2020.
The potential for a more competitive and sustainable economy is there and Free ICT is prepared to make sure it’s realised. As anon-profit foundation entering a critical phase in its mission, we need your support more than ever.
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