The EU’s Approach to Product Stewardship

While the European Union (EU) does not have any legal principle specific to product stewardship, it has applied the full range of EU environmental law principles to create a comprehensive framework for product stewardship. These principles include the prevention and precautionary principles, sustainability, extended producer responsibility, supply chain responsibility, and corporate social responsibility. In addition, product stewardship is a key instrument in the EU’s latest strategic environmental focus areas: the circular economy and the toxic-free environment, two main themes of current EU environmental policy making.
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Last October, the European Commission published its Work Programme for 2018. In the environmental area, a prominent topic is the EU initiative with respect to a ‘circular economy.’ This concept involves a transition to a “stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.”

The idea is to  “close the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, so as to realize benefits for both the environment and the economy. Simultaneously, the EU’s circular economy strategy should “extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste,” “foster energy savings,” and reduce “Green House Gas emissions.” Accordingly, the Commission’s proposals cover the full lifecycle of products: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.


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