Safe and sustainable by design can make the wear-and-tear economy a thing of the past


Changes in the everyday life of European citizens could be remarkable if products on the market were safe and sustainable by design. The recycling industry would boom, as a lot more products would be recycled. The general health would improve, as products would contain no hazardous chemicals. The very fundaments of the market would tremble, as the wear-and-tear economy would turn obsolete.

This is a possible outcome of the work currently being done by the Commission. It has been stated, in both the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) and the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), that a central goal for the Commission is to make the European society and economy more sustainable. One way of doing this is to define criteria for what makes a product safe and sustainable by design.

In March, ChemSec attended a workshop together with other stakeholders, arranged by DG RTD (the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation), with this exact purpose. The goal is to have an accepted definition by 2022.

ChemSec’s view on the issue is quite straight forward. First, and most importantly, “safe” must mean “not containing hazardous chemicals”. As we are transitioning into a circular economy, this will be increasingly important. It is sometimes said that we should talk about the risk of exposure rather than the hazardous properties of chemicals, but this is a dangerous approach.

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Chemsec, 15 April 2021