Will Sustainable Products Become the Norm?
It is no secret that our consumer habits are having a profound impact on the environment. It is estimated that waste generation is set to soar by 70% by 2050. Due to increased public concern and frightening statistics found by leading environmental organisations, most of us are making more effort than ever to reduce our impact on the planet.
In fact, Deloitte's study last year found that more than half of consumers have reduced their single-use plastic consumption, over a third chose brands with environmentally sustainable practices/values and 28% of them stopped purchasing from certain brands because they had ethical or sustainability-related concerns.
Many companies have picked up the bad habit of making vague environmental claims, with fluffy language missing any real substance or evidence to back it up. It can’t just be me fed up with “energy-efficient” products made in factories polluting rivers. It feels like companies spend more time and money claiming to be “green” or “eco” than actually reducing their impact on the planet. In the 70s, Volkswagen admitted to fitting cars with software that gave false readings in emissions tests, all whilst making low-emission claims through marketing campaigns, when in reality their engines were emitting 40x more than the allowed limit for nitrogen oxide pollutants.
In 2022, our concern for the environment is greater than ever, our research is more extensive and more environmental laws are being passed to bring the planet the justice it deserves. However, tighter restrictions only get you so far. A quick Google search will show you dozens of huge companies under scrutiny for their disingenuous environmental claims over the past few years. The bad news is it is still very much prevalent, the good news is they’re regularly getting called out for it.
Transitioning to a Circular Economy
Last week, the European Union pushed new “circular economy” rules, meaning everyday items sold in the EU would require to be compliant with standards meaning they are durable, can be reused, repaired, recycled, and contain recycled materials. Not only will the planet thank us for this, but due to banning vague environmental claims, as consumers, the vast majority of us will be grateful for more consumer protection.
EU Green Deal chief, Frans Timmermans, said “we want sustainable products to become the norm on the European market”. New proposals aim to bring changes to production and consumption in the EU, but assumptively will have an effect globally, too. Ecodesign rules are not new to us. For years now, we have been protected as consumers with white goods, due to their A to G label helping guide consumers, and as a result, according to the European Commission saved around €120 billion on energy bills last year.
According to the EU’s proposal, products will have a “passport”, consisting of sustainability-related information for the benefit of consumers. With increased transparency, consumers and businesses can make more informed decisions when purchasing, repairing and recycling goods.
Emmanuel Katrakis, secretary-general of the recycling industry body EuRIC makes a good point stating that “80% of products’ environmental impacts are determined at the design stage. Still, the vast majority of products placed on the market are designed without any consideration for their end-of-life stage”.
QBAR By Riot is the World’s First Circular Disposable
EU Environment Policy Chief, Virginijus Sinkevicius claims they will prioritise the most damaging products to the environment. This suggests that many other disposable vendors will have to follow the path led by the world’s first sustainable disposable device - QBAR by Riot. CEO of Riot Labs, Ben Johnson reacts to this by saying “this is a positive step for the vaping industry as sustainable products will not only reduce the impact on the environment but should help give vaping a better name, encouraging more people to give up dangerous cigarettes.”
What Makes QBAR a Circular Product?
- Batteries are reused in future QBAR devices and other electronic goods
- The mouthpiece is incinerated with energy produced going back into the national grid
- It is made from PLA Plastic that is turned into clothing to be sold to charity
There is still a lot to be decided, and I have no doubt industries that produce goods with short lifespans will have something to say. The impact will vary depending on product-specific requirements, which are yet to be published. The commission is already stretched, and creating proposals on a product-by-product basis won’t be an overnight job. However, there is no doubt that this is a much-needed industry transformation to increase global sustainability.