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EC develops environmental labeling scheme.

voluntary program underway among consumer product manufacturers; nonwovens not among product groups chosen

European consumer products manufacturers are being invited to apply to an outside body for the right to have an environmental symbol printed on their packaging. The European Community has instituted a regulation for the setting-up of a European "ecolabeling" system for consumer products. The object of the scheme is to encourage the development of products with superior environmental performance and provide consumers with better information on the environmental performance of products.

According to European correspondent Clare Haddad, the original legislation was proposed last December, with a planned launch by the end of this year. The "ecolabel" consists of a flower symbol with a star for each European Community state and an "E" in the center.

The regulation sets out the framework for the scheme and requires each member state to designate a "competent" body to administer the regulation. Marketers will compete for the label throughout Europe, not only within their home market. At this time, it is expected approximately only 10% of products within a particular category will be awarded the right to use the label.

The product approvals will take into consideration cradle to grave assessments of the individual products; a normal period of validity for criteria is expected to be three years, although this will vary.

Twenty product groups have been selected for the first round of product analysis, Ms. Hadded told nonwovens INDUSTRY. These were selected on the basis of the perceived relevance to the environment and include products such as paper products, batteries, washing machines and hairsprays. No nonwovens were included among the first product groups.

Ms. Haddad pointed out that since manufacturers are not being asked whether they approve of the ecolabeling scheme and must accept the decision of the regulating body if they do decide to apply, a number of objections are sure to arise. Among these:

* If manufacturers want to apply for a label, they must submit their their products to be judged on subjective criteria by a body whose membership they may not believe are qualified to make such judgements.

* Manufacturers must pay a fee if they are licensed to use the symbol, a fee that may be passed on the customers.

* An inequity to new products exists since once an ecolabel has been awarded in a particular category, the category is closed for up to three years.

Companies who do not apply for the label will be at disadvantage because its absence may infer the product failed rather than did not apply.

Overall, Ms. Haddad said she felt the scheme would be controversial but the EC was not willing to give up on it. "Consumers may find it helpful, but I fear there will be some very discontented companies," she said, adding that perhaps industry would prefer a system that" counted the majority in rather than out."
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Title Annotation:European Community plan to put environmental labels on consumer products, excluding nonwovens
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:Elsner introducing Z-fold machine for nonwovens.
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