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Prioritising Health and Safety in Repair: Integrating Digital Product Passports (DPP)

Brought to you by Dimitra Papoutsoglou from ECORESET SA 

In April 2024, the European Parliament adopted the Directive on the Right to Repair that aims to encourage more sustainable consumption by making it easier to repair defective goods, reducing waste and supporting the repair sector.  

The new legislation aims to make repairs more attractive and available for consumers e.g. by extending legal guarantee by one year once a product has been fixed, giving the right to request repairs for products such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners and smartphones after the guarantee has expired, by setting up a European online platform to help consumers find local repairers in their area.  

Under these perspectives, the role of electrical and electronic equipment repair businesses is going to be significantly improved and soon they will be one of the main drivers for pollution prevention and waste production. 

The Digital Product Passports (DPP) initiative is part of the proposed Eco-design for Sustainable Products Regulation and one of the key actions under the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).  

The Circular Economy Resource Information System (CE-RISE) project aims to create an information system and integrate digital product passports, that will share detailed information on electronic products. 

By prioritising repairers’ needs, the DPP emerges as a pivotal tool in the work bench of repairers, where the right to repair meets economic and environmental circularity. 

For the transition towards a repair-centric culture, meeting Health and Safety Executive (HSE) criteria is a priority. From batteries to toners and inks, each component demands meticulous handling and disposal protocols. Proper documentation, including disassembly instructions and disposal guidelines, is critical in ensuring safe and sustainable dismantling, repairing and waste management.  

The presence of batteries (remote controls, alarms, watches, gaming, toys, etc.) complicates disassembly and repairing. The devices of new generation – extremely minimised and compact – and the continuous introduction of products in the market containing batteries, sometimes glued, or embedded in e.g. smartphones, e-cigarettes etc. require special equipment and intensive protective measures. All this information must be essentially included in a Digital Product Passport, easily accessible for all the different parts.  

The same goes for ink and toner cartridges, which are classified as IT and telecommunications equipment. Ink contains toxic heavy metals and dyes, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oil. Removal instructions, refilling steps and waste disposal for empty containers should be readily available to the intermediate or end user, while the detailed content of hazardous materials will improve the services of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems. 

Most of the glass used in smartphones is an aluminosilicate glass, made from a mixture of alumina and silicon, along with some potassium ions for strength. Mercury is also found in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) which may be included in televisions, computers, and mobiles. Their composition is particularly complex, as they consist of potentially dangerous substances and uncontrolled disposal may cause environmental hazards. 

Considering the need for reliable and accessible information, for a wide range of products from cradle to grave, the introduction of DPP is expected to raise awareness among stakeholders and consumers. The CE-RISE project familiarises all different parties with the use of DPP and through industrial case studies aims to contribute to the reduction of HSE risks and waste.