FAQs: Measures in the BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment

Illustration Umweltpolitische Digitalagenda

The BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment contains a total of more than 70 measures, many of which are already underway, some of which are new and others under development.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Digital Agenda for the Environment:

FAQ BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment: Long life for smartphones and tablets

What specific impacts would extending the scope of the Ecodesign Directive have, for example, on smartphones?

Resource conservation requirements could be adopted for smartphones under the Ecodesign Directive as part of a product regulation, which could cover the following:

  • Ease of replaceability of individual components (for example battery, screen)
  • Stocking of spare parts for several years for consumers and repair shops at a reasonable price
  • Repair information
  • Updates may not increase energy consumption or prevent the hardware from working
  • Labelling of rare earths

What would a guarantee statement obligation entail?

The BMU is working to establish a manufacturers’ guarantee statement obligation under the Ecodesign Directive. The guarantee statement obligation would apply to manufacturers, requiring them to make a statement on the life span of their product. Buyers would then have a right to repair within the indicated life span. Manufacturers would also be allowed to specify a life span of 0. Consumers would then know where they stand when they buy the product. The manufacturers’ guarantee statement obligation is designed to stimulate competition for long-lived products.

FAQ BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment: Sustainable online retail

What would be the first steps in more sustainable online retail?

  • Short term: Dialogue with online retailers about possible voluntary commitments (for example filter requirements for sustainability labels, including sustainability aspects in search algorithms, actively promoting sustainable alternatives) -> To this end, the BMU is supporting an AI prototype and is already engaged in dialogue with the relevant stakeholders as part of the lighthouse project Pathways and Components of a Digital Agenda for Sustainable Consumption.
  • Short term: Provide access to information available in public databases on environmental impacts of products and services for sustainable consumer choices (for example Blue Angel ecolabel).
  • Short term: The growth in online shopping has both direct and indirect environmental impacts (transport volumes, logistics, packaging and returns). A Blue Angel ecolabel is currently being developed for delivery and shipping services.
  • Short term: Third-country products that do not comply with EU regulations and enter the European market via online platforms are a problem. The BMU is working to introduce an obligation to review in the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act and the Packaging Act, which would require the electronic marketplaces themselves to verify whether the electrical and electronic products and packaging being sold are properly registered.
  • Short term: It is estimated that several billion euros worth of functional goods are destroyed every year. For this reason, the BMU wants to introduce a duty to exercise proper care in the Circular Economy Act (cabinet decision already adopted), which would only allow excess inventory or returns to be destroyed when necessary, for example, for safety or health reasons.

How can online retail be made more sustainable?

  • Increase the visibility of environmentally friendly product alternatives online, for example by highlighting products with ecolabels
  • Transparency of the search engine criteria for retailers to display search results. Allow consumers to set these options themselves
  • Better information about the origin of the order and display of a comparative life cycle assessment of product alternatives (prerequisite: Product Passport)
  • Specify environmental impacts (for example CO2 emissions) for possible returns and/or charge customers for the cost of returns
  • Better product descriptions to prevent returns, the BMU is providing support, for example, to develop an avatar to try on clothes digitally
  • Digital consumer assistant: Actively promoting sustainable alternatives (for example certified products)

FAQ BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment: Digital Product Passport

What is a Digital Product Passport?

The Digital Product Passport is a set of data summarising a product’s components, materials, chemical substances and/or information on reparability, replacement parts and proper disposal. The data originates from all phases of the product life cycle and can be used for various purposes in all these phases (design, manufacture, use, disposal).

Structuring data in a standardised, comparable format enables all stakeholders in the value and supply chain to work together towards a circular economy. At the same time, the Digital Product Passport is an important basis for reliable consumer information and sustainable consumer choices in both stationary and online retail.

Do models for the Digital Product Passport already exist?

A passport of this kind has not yet been established.

Concepts for digital product passport do exist, however, they have not yet been institutionalised by mandatory standard data sets or central databases. They show, however, that a lot is already possible:

  • myEcoCost under FP7: Prototype for real-time calculation of environmental and resource data that is passed through value and supply chains. A barcode is used to access the ecocosts (environmental costs) of consumers via app. The ecocosts of the entire purchase are shown on the receipt next to the payment amount.
  • AskREACH with Scan4Chem app: Consumers can request information about the presence of substances of very high concern. The app is connected to a database where product suppliers can enter information on substances of very high concern contained in their products. Companies can respond to requests centrally using the app, enabling them to fulfil their obligation to provide information more efficiently – and show that their products are "clean".
  • Beat the microbead app: Scans products to determine if a product contains microplastics

Which product groups are suitable for the Digital Product Passport?

The Passport is suitable for all products, services and food products, although the focus should initially be on resource- and energy-intensive products, for example information and communications technology with high energy and material consumption.

The Digital Product Passport will be more important for products with a complex composition than for products with few components. This is especially important to prevent negative environmental impacts and optimise recycling.

FAQ BMU Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment: Environmentally friendly streaming

What specific improvements are necessary for streaming?

A voluntary commitment of streaming service providers could include the following:

  • Autoplay disabled by default, videos do not start unprompted
  • Adapted resolution standards: videos should only be offered in the picture quality appropriate for the end device and that can be perceived by the human eye
  • "Audio only" option, music videos are also offered as a pure audio version (without video)
  • Prevention of duplicated data: thousands of duplicate copies of data are stored on servers
  • Data centres powered 100 percent by renewables Data centres with environmentally-friendly operations, in particular by using existing capacities more efficiently
  • Measures for using waste heat, where expedient from an environmental standpoint
  • Compliance with the Blue Angel criteria for data centres. These criteria cover all important requirements for more climate change mitigation and responsible resource management in data centres
  • Calls for tenders for server and storage products in line with Blue Angel requirements
  • Investments in research to learn how more environmentally friendly streaming services can be offered