Refrigerators, washing machines, telephones and other appliances are becoming less and less useful. It is usually not possible to repair them, so you have to buy new products again. European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius says that significant changes are needed in this area, which would benefit both consumers and European businesses.
This is the European Digital Decade. It aims for a people-centered and sustainable digital future with more power for business and people. Europe seeks to strengthen its digital sovereignty and set standards rather than follow the standards of others, focusing on data, technology and infrastructure. Member of the European Commission on Delfi TV’s Digital Decade for Europe: How can this help the transition to a green economy? Virginijus Sinkevičius told about sustainable products.
There has been a lot of talk lately that phones could last much longer if users could repair them and if there was an opportunity to replace the battery. However, our economic model is primarily based on the largest possible production and consumption, which is a fundamental problem, notes V. Sinkevičius, because consumers have to deal with unsustainable products.
“We notice that even with the phone’s updated operating system, it no longer works as smoothly. Even in products that are expected to last a long time, such as a washing machine or refrigerator, parts that cannot be replaced break down and you have to look for a new product again, ”says the interlocutor.
© DELFI / Julius Kalinskas
Looking for ways to save
First of all, V. Sinkevičius singles out the environmental aspect – the production of each product leaves a huge trace of carbon dioxide. This footprint can be reduced, but it still remains, especially in the process of extracting the necessary minerals, the commissioner notes.
“One of the solutions is to prolong the life cycle of the product, which ensures that the item lasts as long as possible and the footprint is reduced proportionally,” says V. Sinkevičius. – For the consumer, a longer-lasting item saves money. Europeans tend to look for savings. Example – ekodizaino a directive faced by anyone who buys an electronic device or light bulb in a shop. Grading from A to F is visible here. “A” means you’ll pay a little more, but the light bulb will last longer, save more, and save you money over time. “
V. Sinkevičius also emphasizes that in the current context of the war it is obligatory to talk about strategic autonomy.
“Today, we import raw materials for production into the European Union (EU) market, such as metals from the same Russia. Replacing them is not as easy as they are in Europe. Therefore, by making more durable products or those that can be repaired, we would reduce the need for raw materials, be less dependent on geopolitical perturbations, and business would be less dependent on supply chain disruptions caused not only by war but also by pandemics, ”says the commissioner.
The digital decade promises change
“Just recently European Commission supported my proposal to ensure stricter standards for products sold on the EU market, says V. Sinkevičius. – Here we look at the whole cycle: from extraction, design, production, use, consumption to what happens to the product afterwards. This will no doubt ensure that the items last longer. ”
Proposals are also currently being prepared for each product group for environmental requirements to be made available to consumers through a digital passport are revealed by the commissioner. This passport will show the environmental impact of the product or the process used sustainable technologies.
“The last offer is for unsold production,” says the interviewee. “Currently, many companies tend to destroy unsold production, and we will try to ban it.”
Various materials, minerals, metals, electricity are used in the production process, and the final product does not even reach the counter and is destroyed, V. Sinkevičius fears: “This is an absurd situation for which we have to look for solutions together with the manufacturers.”
One way to solve this problem is to sell on the market at a lower price, but this is the choice of companies. V. Sinkevičius also thinks that unsold items, such as textiles, could be used for donations and charity.
Warns you when your phone is slowing down
V. Sinkevičius says that the decision will be made as well phones software update problem. The aim will be for consumers to know what to expect. According to him, people will be warned that the performance of their purchased phone is likely to slow down after several upgrades.
“We want this information to be easily accessible to the user and not hidden in long texts. This warning will be very important and will allow the user to make a decision. This information will also be easily accessible in the digital product passport, ”explains the European Commissioner.
Business models will change
Surveys show that EU citizens are ready to change their consumption habits as soon as they are given the opportunity, says V. Sinkevičius: “The latest Eurobarometer survey shows that 77% of Europeans would rather repair an existing one than replace it with a new one. Meanwhile, 79 percent. wants manufacturers to be legally obliged to ensure that defective devices are repaired and that spare parts are available to them. “
For their part, big tech companies see a need to change their business model first.
“The largest manufacturers of laptops and printers in the United States say they are moving to a subscription model. This means that you will not necessarily own the printer or laptop, but you will pay for it for some time, and you will return the computer and introduce you to a new one to renew your plan. Meanwhile, after some such renovation works, the old one will travel somewhere else, says V. Sinkevičius. – I have no doubt that this will happen very soon and the consumer will not feel much discomfort. It looks like we’ve all been building DVD collections recently, but with the advent of Netflix, HBO, etc., everyone very quickly forgot what a DVD is, and today they’re using subscription services successfully. “