The time is right now – Finnish presidency on the threshold guidelining EU to well-functioning, efficient circular society
The EU ministers of environment are meeting in Helsinki to discuss, among other very important topics, how to promote the shift towards a circular society. Because circular society is what we really need in order to succeed with our common goals on tackling the climate change and stopping the loss of biodiversity.
What then is the consumers’ role in achieving these goals? Well, consumers are increasingly willing to buy sustainable products, especially energy-efficient ones, in order to minimise their impact on the environment. All too often though, confusing information and a great variety of industry claims make this difficult. Buying products which consume less energy and are better for the environment should be a simple choice for consumers. That’s why we need mandatory requirements for the products as well as an understandable and clear label to recognise those products that are low in energy consumption. The EU should continue its work on improving the ecolabel scheme and unsustainable products should be taken off the market.
Another important factor in stepping up the circular society work is more ambitious ecodesign requirements. According to EU Commission estimates, 80% of all environmental impacts could be avoided during the design phase of a product. Yet, we still have a lot of product groups left outside of the scope of the eco-design directive. Eco-design should be in the very heart of all product design. We cannot afford phenomena such as premature obsolescence (products failing too early). Durability of the products as well as repairability and possibility to recycle the raw materials used are essential to achieving the goals of circular economy and society.
When it comes to recycling, the consumers have an important role to play. As buying environmentally friendly products, recycling too, should be made easy to consumers. Clear, visible and understandable recycling instructions on all packages would help. The principles of eco-design could be used to design modern kitchens, too. Far too often, there is no or too little room in the kitchen cabinets for sorting. It is the small things that count when changing people´s attitudes and behaviour.
The EU must be a forerunner and Finland has a good opportunity to speed up this work as the Finnish presidency just began. Hopefully we will see a clear strategy ahead in order to achieve circular society that takes into consideration also the consumer point of view.
The Consumers’ Union of Finland
Published July 7th, 2019