Product standards figure greatly in the design of products, which in turn may implicate and influence the development of products environmental performance. The New Approach, a directive to facilitate the free movement of goods within the EU, is Europes answer to product standardisation. Only products that fulfil the essential requirements, which are defined by the directives, may be allowed onto the market.
The directives mainly affect the safety aspect of product design and contain general requirements which reference voluntary EU standards. This may also be extended to include environmental considerations. As such, one of the main elements of the New Approach is a definition of mandatory essential requirements to ensure a high level of protection of the public interest at issue, such as health, safety, consumer protection and the protection of the environment.
A recent communication COM (2003) 240(01) refers to the New Approach as a highly efficient and successful policy instrument.
Arguably, a main hope of the New Approach for greening products is that this instrument is highly capable of ensuring environmental aspects are considered in the development of products. New Approach, according to the EU, is a proven tool for regulating product design. Since products environmental concerns have now been propelled onto the conscience of regulators and tax-payers alike, then it may be worthwhile to see if the EU can leverage on the past success of the New Approach by regulating environmental product performance whilst leaving the details to EU standards.
The main obstacle, however, is the length of time and resources needed to come to agreement on the relevant standards for specific products.More information on the New Approach: http://europa.eu.int/comm....