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Selected topics in corporate environmental protection

Corporate environmental protection encompasses efforts and measures to reduce environmental impacts, promote resource efficiency and implement environmentally friendly practices in operational processes. In doing so, corporate environmental protection contributes to the protection of the environment and also offers economic, social as well as health benefits for one’s own company.

VDMA Nord and ProduktionNRW organized a virtual exchange of experiences on September 12, 2023, to present the latest developments to the mechanical and plant engineering industry. In doing so, the participants had the opportunity to co-determine the content of the event.

Focus on operational environmental protection: circular economy

Andre Koring, VDMA’s expert for operational environmental protection and resource efficiency, first addressed the topic of the circular economy, which plays a central role in the European Green Deal. According to the concept of the circular economy, circular approaches are aimed for instead of linear ones. This means that existing materials and products should be reused, repaired or recycled for as long as possible.

The concepts of the circular economy have multiple implications for mechanical and plant engineering. One example is the provision of state-of-the-art machinery to other players to enable resource- and energy-efficient production of goods. Within these contexts, numerous opportunities open up for the application of the 10 R strategies, such as Rethink, Reuse or Recycle, which highlight potential areas for action.

The implementation of the European Green Deal is currently leading to various regulatory changes that emphasize sustainability and circular economy aspects in particular. Among others, this has an impact on the Ecodesign Regulation and the Packaging Regulation.

Other areas of focus: New ecodesign and packaging ordinance

The new Ecodesign Regulation will no longer be a directive in the future, but will be binding for all EU member states. In a first step, it will mainly affect B2C products such as textiles or furniture, but in the long term, other B2B products could also be covered by this regulation. With the help of the digital product passport, comprehensive information, such as manufacturer details, production date and ingredients, will be made transparently available. This additional transparency is intended to facilitate processes in the circular economy, as information can flow in several directions. The digital product passport is scheduled to be introduced in 2026 and 2027, respectively.

The new EU Packaging Regulation is an attempt to revise the existing directive in order to create more legal certainty and have less of an impact on the cross-border movement of goods. Until now, individual countries have had freedom in transposing it into national law. In addition, the proposed measures are intended to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from packaging from 66 million tons to 43 million tons. The regulation introduces requirements for the entire life cycle of packaging in terms of its environmental sustainability and labeling, which must be met when packaging is placed on the market.

Also to be considered are requirements relating to extended producer responsibility, collection, treatment and recycling of packaging waste. The reuse of packaging represents both a logistical challenge and an ecological burden – and must therefore be critically scrutinized.

Discussion and exchange of experience

The final discussion focused on the new Ecodesign Regulation and the introduction of a digital product passport. The digital product passport promises more transparency – but this could also lead to additional bureaucratic work. It is therefore advisable to analyze one’s own products at an early stage on the basis of the R-strategies in order to identify the best ways to promote the circular economy. There is also a fear that competitors will be able to view product information (even from other European countries). To avoid this, the digital product passport should only contain information that promotes the circular economy.

Further information

The event was offered by ProduktionNRW and VDMA Nord. ProduktionNRW is the cluster of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is organized by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.