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Belgium proposes sustainability index for household appliances

13:18 27/05/2024

Belgium’s federal government has reached an agreement, in principle, to introduce a sustainability index for washing machines and televisions.

The index would offer a score that not only indicates how easy it is to repair an appliance, but also its life expectancy.

Belgian environment minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) said the government had approved a reparability index for a first group of electrical appliances: dishwashers, hoovers, high-pressure cleaners, lawnmowers and laptops.

The bill introduces a reparability index with a score from 0 to 10, based on a number of criteria: the availability of technical information and maintenance manuals, the ease with which the product can be dismantled, the availability of spare parts and their delivery times, the price of spare parts and other criteria specifically linked to the product.

With this law, Belgium becomes, after France, the second European country to have a reparability index. The aim is for Belgium’s reparability and durability indices to be the same as those used in France, which implemented a reparability index as part of the anti-waste and circular economy law in January 2021.

As a result, Belgium’s legal standards for the index are the same as those stipulated by French law. This will facilitate cross-border sales and enable manufacturers to sell their products on the Belgian and French market.

“It will have to be visible on sales sites and in shops,” Khattabi added.

“It's a resilient system offering greater transparency on reparability and lifespan also enables companies to promote products that are easy to repair and last a long time,” she said.

Belgium has also decided to launch a reparability index for bicycles, electric bicycles and electric scooters, which it described as a world first.

This initiative was spearheaded by Khattabi and Belgium’s deputy prime minister and economy minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne, supported by the secretary of state for consumer protection Alexia Bertrand.

Belgium’s adoption of new rules on repairability and sustainability come as the European Union recently rubberstamped its "right to repair" directive.

The March 2023 European Commission proposal on "common rules promoting the repair of goods" was introduced, among other goals, to stop "planned obsolescence" where white goods are "planned" to break down after a set number of years.

However, as there is as yet no EU-wide reparability index, industry representatives warn this will cause fragmentation in the EU market.

Implementing these measures at a national level without an EU-wide regulation will place a burden on both manufacturers and consumers, said Home Appliance Europe energy and environment policy manager Giulia Zilla.

"If we take the case of France," she said, "the upcoming addition of a durability index would make the introduction of a repairability index at European level obsolete and misleading for consumers who would be faced at the point of sale with two different indexes."

Written by Liz Newmark