Standards in support of the Green Deal: Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy | Agoria

Standards in support of the Green Deal: Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy

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Published on 13/04/21 by Dirk De Moor
Through the Green Deal, the European Commission has set a series of ambitious goals to transition towards a fully green economy and reach the global climate target of net zero by 2050. To reach these objectives, all actors involved will have to rethink the way to produce and consume, the way our infrastructures work, the use of resources and the functioning of transportation systems. In this third contribution, the focus is on the Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy.

Following the European Green Deal, the EC published the Circular Economy Action Plan 2 (CEAP2) which pays more attention to prevention and reuse. This has to be reflected in all the sectoral standards.

Energy related products

European standards complement EU legislation, supporting the Ecodesign and the Energy Labelling Regulations in providing standards for methods to measure and assess whether products comply with regulatory requirements.

More than twenty CEN and CENELEC Committees are developing standards in support of Ecodesign and Ecolabelling product regulation and about 150 standards have already been published (covering products such as: vacuum cleaners, external power supplies, power transformers, washing machines, etc.).

It is important that these standards are appropriately updated in order to reflect technological progress, represent real-life use as much as possible and discourage circumvention attempts, so that the requirements that are set and the information provided on the Energy Label are accurate and can genuinely drive reductions in energy demand.

The European Green Deal and CEAP2 intend to make priority products such as smartphones and computers, more durable and easier to repair. Standards are important to achieve this (e.g. EN 45554 ‘General methods for the assessment of the ability to repair, reuse and upgrade energy-related products’).

More progressive measures might be needed to improve product durability, repairability, toxicity, and recyclability at design stage, and make sure these are replicated to all products regulated by eco-design and beyond.

For energy related products criteria defining reusability, recyclability and recoverability to improve material efficiency have been developed through standards. This includes the ability to access or remove certain components, consumables or assemblies from products to facilitate repair or remanufacture or reuse (CEN/CLC JTC 10 'Energy-related products - Material Efficiency Aspects for Ecodesign'). Agoria has organised an academy about these standards.

Standards also exist to formulate the technical requirements for the collection and treatment of WEEE, preventing the release of hazardous chemicals while optimizing material-efficient recycling (EN 50625 series on 'Collection, logistics & treatment requirements for WEEE').

Follow up is needed on the Standardisation Request (M/555) on natural refrigerants to further stimulate the alternatives to HFCs, which have a high Global Warming Potential (GWP), especially to improve the environmental performance of the heating and cooling sector.

Plastics

A major milestone in the Plastics Strategy is the revision of the essential requirements for packaging. ISO/TC 61 'Plastics' and CEN/TC 249 'Plastics' are responsible for the standards in this area. There is a lot more potential for standards to facilitate reuse systems through common formats and typing. Reliable standards are needed to verify biodegradability claims.

Furthermore, standards are crucial when it comes to harmonized data collection and analytical methods to assess microplastics from various sources, including tyres (CEN/TC 366 'Materials obtained from End-of-Life Tyres'), plastic pellet loss, and synthetic fiber wear-off. At end of life, there are many standards that ensure the quality of recycling. The European Plastics Strategy therefore explicitly refers to European quality standards to increase confidence that recycled plastics meet manufacturer needs. There are also standards to calculate recycling rates (EN 13440) and plastics recycling traceability (EN 15343). Future work could be: Development of a reliable standard to determine recycled content in a scientifically sound way and which will cover mechanically as well as chemically recycled plastics. Recently a standard has been developed for closed-loop recycling of un-plasticized PVC for windows and doors.

Construction sector

To fit within a low-carbon and circular economy the construction and real estate sectors have to transform in a more sustainable direction. European standards have been developed to support the Construction Products Regulation in a number of product categories.

In the context of the Green Deal, minimizing CO2 emissions ought to become the driver for the renovation effort. Makeover and rehabilitation programs and incentives should be guided by the systematic targeting of the most carbon-intensive buildings. Standards can help promote the renovation wave by giving guidelines to predict the effect of measures and compare possible renovation strategies in terms of environmental output and climate resilience.

In order to enable the assessments of the environmental performance of buildings and other construction works standards for Environmental product declaration (EPD) of construction products, EN 15804+A2, has been developed by CEN/TC 350 'Sustainability of construction works'. This is a tool to quantify and communicate the environmental impacts of a product based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) (EN ISO 14040) and other quantified environmental information. The coherent LCA rules for buildings are defined in EN 15978 and for Civil Engineering Works in prEN 17472, developed by CEN/TC 350. These standards can stimulate a market demand for more sustainable construction renovation and materials.

There are more ways in which standards can support circular construction and sustainable construction products. Discussions to produce standards – on resource-mapping of buildings, deconstruction and selective demolition of buildings, and for the reuse of construction products as well as construction waste management – are important in this regard, thus developing a common approach across the value chain to integrate principles of circularity in all phases from design to deconstruction and future lifecycles. Standards for Sustainable Renovation and Refurbishment will also be important to support practices for improved sustainability of existing buildings supported by relevant product standards. The identification of the new standardization needs will be done after analysing the existing relevant European protocols and guidelines and consultation with stakeholders.

Bio-based products

For bio-based products a set of standards have been developed that address the sustainability (biomass used, production and end-use), the life-cycle analysis of the products as well as the amount of non-mineral components used (CEN/TC 411 'Bio- based products'). A new committee has initiated work to test regulated chemicals in products intended for consumers (CEN/TC 462 'Regulated chemicals in products').

Material flow cost accounting

Material flow cost accounting (MFCA) can also be calculated based on international standards. Under MFCA, the flows and stocks of materials within an organization are traced and quantified in physical units (e.g. mass, volume) and the costs associated with those material flows are also evaluated. The resulting information can be used as a motivation for organizations and managers to seek opportunities to simultaneously reduce adverse environmental impacts and generate financial benefits.

Textiles

Standards can help make textile products circular, durable and produced in a sustainable way, without hazardous chemicals. For instance, standards can be developed for circular design, methods to determine recycled content, high-quality textile-to-textile recycling and labelling on durability and recyclability. The EC is encouraged to issue standardisation requests to CEN and CENELEC after the publication of the dedicated EC action plan.

Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities

Circularity in cities and communities (including territories) is of strategic importance, thanks to their capacity to engage in circular economy priorities, from promotion to decision making as well as through innovative governance schemes. Standardization (CEN/CENELEC/ETSI 'Sector Forum Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities', as well as CEN/TC 465 'Sustainable and Smart Cities and Communities') has a major role in paving the way to further development through trust and guidance.

Welding

The energy and resource consumption of welding equipment could be reduced by applying existing non-proprietary techniques without an increase in the combined costs of purchasing and operation. Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/1784 laying down ecodesign requirements for welding equipment pursuant to Directive 2009/125/EC. This Regulation establishes ecodesign requirements for the placing on the market or the putting into service of electrical mains-operated welding equipment. The timing for the introduction of ecodesign requirements allows manufacturers to redesign the products covered by this Regulation. It takes account of the impact on costs for manufacturers, in particular the large proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the welding equipment manufacturing sector in Europe, while ensuring the timely achievement of the objectives of this Regulation. The preparatory study has concluded that the proposed ecodesign requirements do not affect the functionality or affordability of welding equipment from the end-user’s perspective and do not negatively affect health, safety or the environment. To consider the aspects of Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/1784, CEN/TC 121 for welding and allied processes starts the revision of EN ISO 14717:2005, Welding and allied processes - Environmental check list. This document provides check lists for the assessment of the environmental aspects of welding fabrication of metallic materials including site and repair work. Informative annexes indicate recommended actions for avoiding and reducing the possible environmental impacts outside the workshop. Further projects are under preparation within CEN/TC 121.

This article is based on the CEN-CENELEC position paper “Standards in support of the European Green Deal Commitments”. More info can be found on the CEN/CENELEC website.

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