Ecodesign: guidelines and implications for industry

Current Ecodesign Guidelines

Ecodesign, in short, is the development of an environmentally friendly product, which must use less energy, emit fewer harmful substances and be suitable for recycling. According to 2018 data from the European Parliament, only a few percent of rare metals in cell phones are recycled and about 80 percent of environmental pollution is the result of decisions made during the product design phase. Ecodesign makes it possible to reduce that burdensome environmental impact of products from the design to development phase. All links in the product life cycle are covered: from raw material extraction to the end-of-life phase. Among the environmental considerations covered are material use, water use, pollutant emissions, waste problems, reparability and recyclability. The European Commission has established specific directives (Directive 2009/125/EC revising Directive 2005/32/EC) for different categories of energy-consuming products, which are widely sold and have a high environmental impact:

Manufacturers of the above products are required by these guidelines to reduce energy consumption and negative environmental impacts already in their design phase. To visit the directives of the relevant categories, click on the hyperlinks. With this comes a new energy label tailored to these guidelines. It can be seen in Figure 1. It shows that in addition to the energy efficiency class, energy consumption in kWh/100 duty cycles, appliance capacity, water consumption and noise level are also expressed.

Figure 1: The new energy label for energy-consuming products.

Products that meet Ecodesign requirements may use a CE mark. Only with this marking may the product be sold in Europe. Proof of compliance with Ecodesign requirements can be provided by demonstrating an EC declaration of conformity. According to Directive 2005/32/EC (Article 5 point 3), this declaration consists of the following elements:

  • Name and address of the manufacturer or his authorized representative.
  • A sufficiently precise description of the model to identify it unambiguously.
  • Where applicable, the references of the harmonized standards applied.
  • Where applicable, the other technical standards and specifications used.
  • Where appropriate, the reference of other applied Community legislation providing for the affixing of the CE marking.
  • Identity and signature of the person authorized to bind the manufacturer or its authorized representative.

It is very useful for manufacturers of energy-using products to familiarize themselves with the new Directive 2009/125/EC and possibly revise production processes to adapt to the new applicable standards.

New Ecodesign guidelines regarding circularity

In March 2022, the European Commission announced new proposals to flesh out the Circular Economy Action Plan, part of the European Green Deal. The proposals cover topics such as the overconsumption of clothing, furniture and electronics. As part of the plan, Ecodesign requirements will also be changed. The proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) is the cornerstone of the European Commission’s approach to more environmentally friendly and circular products. The ESPR sets Ecodesign requirements for specific product categories to significantly improve their circularity, energy performance and other sustainability aspects. It builds on the successful Ecodesign Directive on energy-related products and will allow minimum Ecodesign and information requirements to be set for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market.

Figure 2: Overview of the Circular Economy package initiatives.

The new Ecodesign requirements will be tailored to the specific characteristics of the product groups concerned. Their definition and development will take into account the potential for improvement with regard to resources and energy efficiency, as well as the product’s lifetime, value and the reduction of negative impacts on the climate and environment. The new requirements will cover:

  • durability, reliability, reusability, ability to upgrade, repairability, ease of maintenance and refurbishment of the product;
  • restrictions on the presence of substances that hinder the circularity of products and materials;
  • energy use or energy efficiency of products;
  • resource use or resource efficiency in products;
  • minimum of recycled content of products;
  • ease of disassembly, remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials;
  • The environmental impacts of products throughout their life cycle, including their carbon and environmental footprints;
  • preventing and reducing waste, including packaging waste.

Doing your own circular business in accordance with the new legislation? Visit for a good guide. For training on circular product design, please visit