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Circular Economy and European Union: a step towards a sustainable future?

European Green Deal

The European Union wants smartphone makers to provide at least 15 spare parts of mobile phones and tablets to professionals for a minimum of 5 years from its launch, as per the latest draft proposals under its Circular Economy Action Plan 2020. With CEAP, the EU wants electronic manufacturers to go sustainable.

IN 2020, the EU proposed Circular Economy Action Plan as the main building block of the European Green Deal. Since then, the regulations have been working their way through European Commission processes, and now the EU is closer to implementing “circular economy” requirements. The main idea is to enable gadget users to easily get their phones repaired if they want to and will not be forced to upgrade.

“Devices are often replaced prematurely by users and are, at the end of their useful life, not sufficiently reused or recycled, leading to a waste of resources,” reads the draft proposal.

The regulation in discussion talks about providing fifteen components including the battery, the back cover, display, camera assemblies, audio and charge ports, mechanical buttons, microphones and speakers, hinges or folding mechanisms, protective foils, chargers, and SIM/memory trays with external slots- to be made available “to professional repairers”.

Not only this but manufacturers will also be obligated to provide operating system and security updates so that the device doesn’t become obsolete. The software update would be required at no cost to the customer for five years after the last sale date of the device. Manufacturers will have to make sure that these updates don’t unduly degrade device performance.

The European Environmental Bureau believes that extending the life of phones by five years would be equivalent to saving 10 million tonnes of CO2 emission or removing 5 million cars from the roads of Europe.

However, Digital Europe – a European trade organization with members including tech giants AppleSamsung, Google, and Xiaomi thinks differently. Smartphone manufacturers believe that requiring more parts to be available increases plastic consumption and would like parts with a low failure rate exempted from the regulations.

“A potential overproduction, subsequent warehousing, and destruction of spare parts will naturally result in wasted resources, reduced material efficiency, and negative economic value ultimately resulting in higher costs for the consumer”, the group said in a statement.

What is a Circular Economy?

The Circular Economy aims at closing the loop of obtaining resources to make new products and instead focuses on designing more durable, reusable, repairable, and recyclable products to extend product life cycles while curbing waste. As per the United Nations data, more than 50 million tons of electronic waste are generated every year worldwide.

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