According to the Ecodesign Working plan 2016-19, "Given their specificity, a separate track is proposed for ICT products ..., that will also fully take into account their circular economy potential, which is particularly relevant in the case of mobile / smart phones".
Within this context, DG GROW launched this preparatory study on mobile phones, smartphones and tablets in order to assess the feasibility of proposing Ecodesign and/or Energy Labelling requirements for these product groups. The study will also investigate in more detail the potential for environmental improvement, including, in particular, aspects relevant to the circular economy, and provide the elements needed for the identification of policy options in the subsequent impact assessment.
Sustainable industrial policy aims in particular at developing a policy to foster environmental and energy efficient products in the internal market. The Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC is the cornerstone of this approach. It establishes a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products with the aim of ensuring the free movement of those products within the internal market. Directive 2009/125/EC repealed the original Directive 2005/32/EC for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products. It prevents disparate national legislations on the environmental performance of these products from becoming obstacles to the intra-EU trade and contributes to sustainable development by increasing energy efficiency and the level of protection of the environment, taking into account the whole life cycle cost.
The Ecodesign directive itself does not set binding requirements on products: it provides a framework (rules and criteria) for setting such requirements through implementing measures. It is also possible to introduce information requirements for components and sub-assemblies. The Commission prepares implementing measures only for products which have significant sales and trade in the EU, a significant environmental impact and potential for improvement.
The Energy Labelling Regulation may complement ecodesign requirements with mandatory labelling requirements.
Energy labelling enables customers to make informed choices based on the energy consumption of energy-related products. Information on efficient and sustainable energy-related products makes a significant contribution to energy savings and to reducing energy bills, while at the same time promoting innovation and investments into the production of more energy efficient products. Improving the efficiency of energy-related products through informed customer choice and harmonising related requirements at Union level benefits also manufacturers, industry and the European Union economy overall.
Regulation (EU) 2017/1369 sets the legal framework for energy labelling in the European Union.
A recent study from DG JRC "Material Efficiency of smartphones", describes the application of a specific methodology to the assessment of material efficiency aspects for smartphones, with the aim of compiling a list of possible actions for improving their performance with respect to aspects such as durability, reparability, upgradability, use of materials and recyclability. As such, this JRC study constitutes a basis for this preparatory study.
There are many more activities within and outside the European Commission, which could be highly relevant to this study, such as the Product Environmental Footprint and, the recently adopted material efficiency standards by CEN/CENELEC, to name only a few.