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Three Ways Europe is Pushing the Circular Economy Forward

Kevin Purdy, iFixit:

Sometimes you don’t know what a product is like to repair until it breaks down. You find out too late that it doesn’t last as long as you hope, that repair parts are scarce, and that it takes two hours to replace the battery. Not so if there’s a sticker on the box, with a color code and a 1-10 rating that combines ease of repair and access to spare parts.

Starting in 2021, that’s what buyers of appliances and electronics in France could start seeing. France’s Secretary of State to the Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson, proposed the initiative, with mandatory participation by manufacturers.

There could also be a QR code on the label that would provide details on the product, as well as the environmental impact in producing it. There’s already a similar program in place in Austria.

 

Sweden is so efficient at recycling and waste disposal, they have to import waste from other countries to keep their energy-generating incinerators burning. No, seriously. The recycling and reuse of Swedish trash is a mind-boggling 99 percent, with only the remaining 1 percent in landfills.

 

Car makers say they need to protect every aspect of their car designs, including headlights and side mirrors. They need that guaranteed revenue for “investing in innovation,” a German auto maker trade group stated, and third-party parts could compromise safety and reduce vehicle values. Forgive us if “investing in innovation” doesn’t seem like what’s happening.

But the Minister of Justice proposing the law change, Katarina Barley, has a novel idea: if a part is used for repairing a car, the design protections (read: patents) should be eliminated for other parties. While this might only apply to cars for the moment, it could point toward a future in which common sense is applied to restrictive patents that keep things from getting repaired, be they cars, computers, or cordless vacuum cleaners.

 

Each of these stories shows what can happen when people refuse to believe the default narratives: things are built to be disposable, there’s no way to save recycling now, patents must always be held sacred. It’s refreshing to read about new, strong measures to fix a broken system.

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