EU flags in front of the European Commission's building.

Draft European regulations propose that mobile devices should include scratch resistance, protection from dust and water, resistance to accidental drops, battery longevity and the capacity to be disassembled and repaired. | ETgohome/Shutterstock

The European Commission is requesting feedback on draft regulations for designing mobile phones and tablets to be more environmentally friendly, including the issue of recyclability. 

The aim is to ensure that mobile phones and tablets are designed to be energy efficient and durable, that consumers can easily repair, upgrade and maintain them and that it’s possible to reuse and recycle the devices afterward.

The regulations were planned under the Circular Economy Action Plan 2020 and went through a first round of feedback from Dec. 23, 2020, through Jan. 27, 2021, and public consultation from May 31, 2021, through August 23, 2021.

Now, the draft act feedback period is open from Aug. 31, 2022, through Sept. 28, 2022. 

The draft states the steep increase in the demand for smartphones and tablets and their increased functionality “has resulted in increased demand for energy and materials needed to manufacture these devices on the EU market, accompanied by an increase in their associated environmental impacts.”

“In addition, devices are often replaced prematurely by users and are, at the end of their useful life, not sufficiently reused or recycled, leading to a waste of resources,” the draft states. 

To increase resource efficiency and to avoid premature obsolescence, the regulations propose the devices should include scratch resistance, protection from dust and water, resistance to accidental drops, battery longevity and the capacity to be disassembled and repaired. They should also allow for operating system version upgrades. 

If enacted, the regulations for ecodesign requirements would take effect 12 months after becoming official, while the requirements for repair would take effect an additional six months later, “as it is expected that these requirements entail the most significant design changes.”

Mobile phones and tablets with a flexible main display that the user can unroll and roll up and  smartphones designed for high-security communication would be exempted. 

After four years, the regulations call for a review to determine whether the scope needs to be adjusted, whether smart wearable devices should be included, whether a standardized battery that could be used interchangeably across a range of mobile phones and tablets should be required, whether there’s a need to set requirements for repair with used and/or third party spare parts, and the feasibility of adding requirements for recycled content of materials, among other things.

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