Digital Identification and the European Waste Framework Directive

February, 2024

Digital identification and the Circular Economy Action Plan: Paving the way for a sustainable future

The urgency for companies to transform to sustainable business models will be heightened by forthcoming actions and legislation in the European Union. 

The European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Action Plan as one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal, Europe’s agenda for sustainable growth. The EU’s transition to a circular economy will reduce pressure on natural resources and support its aim to achieve its 2050 climate neutrality target and halt biodiversity loss. 

Meanwhile, the EU’s Waste Framework Directive​ sets the overarching legislative framework for the collection, transport, recovery, and disposal of waste. Its primary objective is to protect the environment and human health by preventing or reducing the adverse impacts of waste generation and waste management. The directive promotes the principles of the waste hierarchy, respectively favoring prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, and other forms of recovery, with disposal being the least preferred option.

Digital identification

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation is the cornerstone of the European Commission’s approach to more environmentally sustainable and circular products. Digital Product Passports (DPPs) are part of the regulation. They are also something businesses should have on their radar. 

Starting with electric vehicle batteries in 2027, DPPs will help to further drive the EU’s transition to a circular economy and allow the sharing of product information across the supply chain in order to enable environmental sustainability.

Implementation will have its challenges
While both the Waste Framework Directive​ and Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation will provide robust guidance, implementation poses major challenges to industry. The vast and complex supply chains of modern businesses, coupled with the diverse nature of waste generated, make monitoring and compliance a daunting task. This is where the power of digital identification comes into play.

“Digital Product Passports will help to plug the information gap that currently prevents so many businesses from measuring and verifying their progress to circular and more sustainable ways of operating." — Michael Colarossi, Vice President, Innovation, Product Line Management and Sustainability, Avery Dennison

Four key capabilities for industry leaders
1. Traceability and accountability: Digital identification technologies, such as RFID tags, can track products throughout their lifecycle. This helps to ensure that waste is categorized and disposed of in accordance with best practices. Electronic items for example can be efficiently sorted for proper e-waste management.

2. Data-driven decision making: With digital identification, businesses can gather real-time data on waste generation and disposal. This data-driven approach allows greater opportunity for timely interventions, helping to ensure that waste management aligns with legislation.

3. Stakeholder engagement: Digital identification creates enhanced transparency. By sharing data on waste management practices, businesses can engage stakeholders, from consumers to regulators, helping to improve clarity.

4. Innovation and collaboration: The insights derived from digital identification better enable effective innovation. Businesses can pinpoint opportunities, leading to the development of more sustainable products and better waste management solutions. Moreover, a shared data ecosystem is essential to foster industry-wide collaborations.

The reality is businesses in every industry will need to embrace new technology solutions, including Digital Product Passports. With so much anticipated legislation in many jurisdictions relating to waste, the stakes are too high to ignore.

Download our guide on how Digital Product Passports are the gateway to fashion eco-law compliance.

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