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In search of standards to support circularity in product policies: A systematic approach

Tecchio, Paolo, McAlister, Catriona, Mathieux, Fabrice, Ardente, Fulvio
Journal of cleaner production 2017 v.168 pp. 1533-1546
European Union, case studies, design for environment, durability, energy efficiency, equipment, industry, issues and policy, markets, nongovernmental organizations, pollution, stakeholders, sustainable engineering, washing, zero wastes
The aspiration of a circular economy is to shift material flows toward a zero waste and pollution production system. The process of shifting to a circular economy has been initiated by the European Commission in their action plan for the circular economy. The EU Ecodesign Directive is a key policy in this transition. However, to date the focus of access to market requirements on products has primarily been upon energy efficiency. The absence of adequate metrics and standards has been a key barrier to the inclusion of resource efficiency requirements.This paper proposes a framework to boost sustainable engineering and resource use by systematically identifying standardization needs and features. Standards can then support the setting of appropriate material efficiency requirements in EU product policy.Three high-level policy goals concerning material efficiency of products were identified: embodied impact reduction, lifetime extension and residual waste reduction. Through a lifecycle perspective, a matrix of interactions among material efficiency topics (recycled content, re-used content, relevant material content, durability, upgradability, reparability, re-manufacturability, reusability, recyclability, recoverability, relevant material separability) and policy goals was created. The framework was tested on case studies for electronic displays and washing machines. For potential material efficiency requirements, specific standardization needs were identified, such as adequate metrics for performance measurements, reliable and repeatable tests, and calculation procedures.The proposed novel framework aims to provide a method by which to identify key material efficiency considerations within the policy context, and to map out the generic and product-specific standardisation needs to support ecodesign.Via such an approach, many different stakeholders (industry, academics, policy makers, non-governmental organizations etc.) can be involved in material efficiency standards and regulations. Requirements and standards concerning material efficiency would compel product manufacturers, but also help designers and interested parties in addressing the sustainable resource use issue.