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18/11 Speech by Marie Christine Marghem, Federal minister of the environment

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just a few years ago, the circular economy was seen as an interesting alternative to our linear production model. Today it has become a necessity. Because the mode of production of the circular economy is a response to overproduction and therefore to CO2 emissions, the depletion of resources and the collapse of biodiversity. But it’s also an answer to the consumer that demands more sustainable products.

The circular economy is a challenge that we must meet together at the Benelux level and more broadly at the European level. That is why I would like to be concrete today and to present to you what has already been done in our country at the federal level and at the level of the Regions.

Federal projects and initiatives  

Support the repair of products  

In collaboration with the partners from the Benelux, the FPS Public Health (DG Environment) co-financed a study on repairability in 2018.

The aim of this study was to set out horizontal criteria (for all product categories) for repairability (including dismantling, availability of spare parts, availability of repair manuals, take-back systems, etc.), thereby contributing to the work of CEN/CENELEC. In the context of the Ecodesign Directive, the latter has been mandated by the EU Commission to develop horizontal standards to promote the efficient use of resources (e.g. repair, recovery of components, recyclability, etc.). These standards will then be broken down by product category covered by the Ecodesign Directive.

The FPS Public Health (DG Environment) is very actively following the work of CEN. It is on the drafting committee of various working groups. The results of this repairability study have therefore been used and valorised by the FPS in this context, supported by colleagues in the Benelux.  

Support the development of innovative business models through intelligent product design  

A pilot project was implemented by the FPS Public Health (DG Environment) in 2018/2019 with a supplier of lighting systems. This company was supported in its aim of changing its business model for part of its range. The aim was to move towards a “product as a service” model (the company therefore provides a complete service to its customers while remaining the owner of the installations/products it supplies).

The support included identifying what needed to be changed in the design of the products/installations, so that the components and materials could be easily recovered and subsequently reused.

The lessons learned from this project, in terms of product design, have been valorised in the context of the work of CEN/CENELEC, which are intended to lay down standards for the efficient use of resources at the product level.

A guide for companies has been drawn up. At this stage, it is still too complex to be disseminated on a large scale. Simplification and electronic dissemination are planned in a second phase.

The repairability standard will, in principle, be approved and published in early 2020.  

Promote healthy recycling

A study into substituting hazardous chemicals in Belgium was piloted by the FPS Economy. This study highlights the fact that an effective Belgian substitution strategy needs to be organised around two pillars:

(1) a combination of regulatory and economic information and instruments;

(2) a combination of transversal and vertical actions focusing on priority themes specific to Belgium. The study also contains a wealth of information on European, federal and regional support programmes, including the conditions for obtaining financial support. This study is available on the website of the FPS Economy (in French):