In this opinion, the EESC calls for society to begin an economic transition from over-exploitation of resources and a throw-away culture to a more sustainable, job-rich era, based on quality rather than quantity. In order to cope with the fundamental shift to a new economic model with major systemic consequences in many areas, it is recommended that a new cross-cutting and permanent body be set up in the EESC to analyse these developments.
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The opinion familiarizes the public with the phenomenon of collaborative consumption (CC). The document presents the conceptual approach and describes briefly best practices in CC. The EESC proposes also a general strategy for the sound development of CC in the EU. Given that CC covers mostly bottom-up initiatives, studies are needed before the appropriate regulations, rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved can be established.
Planned obsolescence is associated with a form of industrial production that relies on a minimum renewal rate for its products. Although product renewal is necessary, certain abuses need to be addressed. The EESC would like to see a total ban on products with built-in defects designed to end the product's life.
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits.
Many consumer products could have a longer service-life. However, particularly in the IT and household appliance sectors, some components seem to be designed to become obsolete so that the product becomes unusable after a certain period of time or rely on the use of specific consumable items. This has a number of damaging consequences: the cost to consumers of early replacement of the product or dependence to expensive consumable items, the overuse of natural resources and raw materials.
The EESC organized a public hearing on collaborative or participative consumption on 25 September 2013. The aim of this hearing was to gather stakeholders active in the field of collaborative or participative consumption and enable them to present their observations, concerns and expectations related to this phenomenon. Those contributions will feed the EESC's opinion on this topic which is currently under preparation.
The functional economy focuses on the use of a product rather than its ownership. Specifically, with the functional economy model, a company sells the right to use a product of which it maintains ownership. The famous example is Michelin, which no longer sells tires for fleets of company cars, but supplies "mobility services" consisting of repairing, retreading and in some cases exchanging tires. The economic outcome is that the company has an interest in making its products last as long as possible because the price is based on usage (in this case, the number of kilometres driven) and thus in reducing waste.
Objectives of the event: to present two EESC opinions on the topic, to propose a concrete action plan with a view to foster more ecologic, economic, environmental and user friendly consumption patterns among consumers and to evaluate the impact of the EESC opinion on built-on obsolescence, to evaluate the tangible results of consumer awareness raising and to see and to discuss modalities and best practices of product labelling that includes information on expected product lifetimes.
On 2 July the European Commission launched a package of policy strategies and legislative proposals Towards a circular economy – a zero waste programme for Europe The European Economic and Social Committee, is currently preparing an opinion on the Commission circular economy policy package in order to contribute to this debate.
In this regard on 22 September 2014 the EESC will organise in Brussels a public hearing on circular economy.