Lucas, Flickr cc
If you don’t know what’s in a product, how can you repair or recycle it properly? Today, the information about what is in a product is usually inadequate. To solve the problem, businesses and NGOs have come up with a big but simple idea: product passports.
The European Resource Efficiency Platform, a working group of business leaders, NGOs and politicians from across Europe, came up with the idea of making a passport for a product that is sold in large enough numbers across the EU. The basic idea is to document the identity of a product placed on the market in the same way a passport contains crucial information about its holder, like nationality, height, eye colour or even a fingerprint.
Going beyond a simple list of components, the passport could provide information about how to disassemble the product or how to repair the parts that are most likely to fail. And all this data could be publicly available on an EU database full of product passports.
The EU needs to step in here and provide a single format that works for all products. Why? Because beyond a certain quantity, products tend to be sold across the EU single market and having one set of rules is better than 28 different ones.
Confidentiality and data
There is a question about data confidentiality, which manufacturers request to protect their intellectual property. But in a globalized economy, it is common practice to buy the product of a competitor, dismantle it and find out how this product may be out-performing yours. So, manufacturers need not worry about the issue on these grounds.
Another, trickier issue is if a business other than the original manufacturer changes the properties of the product. This can involve safety issues for the consumer, and should be treated more seriously.
A solution could be to create different access levels for different types of organisation: market surveillance authorities should get all relevant information to check compliance with any legal requirements whereas competitors and consumers could access the minimum information.
Beyond that, we need a legal framework which creates a level playing field for manufacturers, for independent commercial repair services and for re-use centres or recyclers. In other words, just like this has happened in the automotive industry, everyone should be able to access spare parts. If we have it for cars, why can’t we have for our household goods?
If you’re interested in getting more information on this, don’t miss our webinar on product passports! The webinar is part of the Disruptive Innovation Festival 2015, hosted online by the Ellen MacArthur foundation.
Please register here!
Date: Thursday 12 November 2015
Time: 11:00 – 11:45 AM (Central European Time – CET)