Washing machines lasting 5,000 cycles? MEPs ban greenwash claims

Products with misleading eco-labels and greenwashing now banned, ahead of new law to fight fraudulent environmental claims

Businesses can no longer market their goods using unfounded claims about their environmental impact and durability, after the European Parliament gave the green light to a law that bans the use of misleading environmental claims.

The law awaits final approval from the European Council’s ministers, and is meant to work together with the green claims directive, led by Labour MEP rapporteur Cyrus Engerer (S&D) and being discussed at committee stage in Parliament. The upcoming green claims directive will be more specific and elaborate the conditions for using environmental claims in greater detail.

Cyrus Engerer | Fighting Greenwashing. Forging a Green Europe

The directive, adopted by MEPs with 593 votes to 21, protects consumers from misleading marketing practices by banning problematic marketing habits related to greenwashing or the early obsolescence of goods: these will now be added to the EU list of banned commercial practices.

“This law will change the everyday lives of all Europeans,” said Hungarian MEP Biljana Borzan (S&D).

“We will step away from throwaway culture, make marketing more transparent and fight premature obsolescence of goods. People will be able to choose products that are more durable, repairable and sustainable thanks to reliable labels and advertisements. Most importantly, companies can no longer trick people by saying that plastic bottles are good because the company planted trees somewhere – or say that something is sustainable without explaining how. This is a big win for all of us!”

Most importantly, the new rules aim to make product labelling clearer and more trustworthy by banning the use of general environmental claims like “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco” without proof.

The use of sustainability labels will also be regulated, given the confusion caused by their proliferation: sustainability labels based on official certification schemes or established by public authorities will be allowed in the EU.

Claims that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment because of emissions offsetting schemes, will also be banned.

Guarantee information also has to be more visible and a new, harmonised label will be created to give more prominence to goods with an extended guarantee period.

The new rules are expected to ban unfounded durability claims: for example saying that a washing machine will last for 5,000 washing cycles if this is not true under normal conditions, or prompts to replace consumables earlier than strictly necessary, which is often the case with printer ink, for example, and presenting goods as repairable when they are not.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

More in Ewropej 2024