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Ecolabel sotto accusa

Ecover, uno dei maggiori produttori di detergenti, che fa dell’eco-compatibilità dei propri articoli un punto di forza, ha deciso di boicottare l’ecolabel dell’Unione europea, in quanto non credibile, per mancanza di controlli, dopo che ne viene concesso l’uso. L’articolo in inglese (fonte: BusinessGreen):

Exclusive: Ecover shuns EU eco-label
Investigation reveals some products carrying EU “flower” Ecolabel are failing to meet required environmental standards

James Murray, BusinessGreen, 20 Aug 2009

One of Europe’s best-known green brands is boycotting the EU’s high-profile Ecolabel scheme for designating sustainable products over concerns that the criteria for carrying the label are not demanding enough and that products displaying the label are not being adequately policed.
Michael Bremans, managing director of green cleaning products company Ecover, told that the company would not apply to join the 3,000-plus products that carry the “flower” Ecolabel until long-standing concerns about the credibility of the scheme are addressed.
An investigation commissioned by Ecover earlier this and undertaken by an independent laboratory found that from a sample of 15 washing products boasting the label, 13 did not meet the European Commission’s criteria.
“Once you have the label there’s no process in place for checking the product continues to comply with the rules,” said Bremans. “The commission does not recheck if you change the product in some way.”
Ecover has now handed the files from its investigation to the European Commission and separate tests have confirmed its findings.
Bremans said he was confident the commission would take action against the brands involved, although he declined to name the products that had failed to meet the label’s criteria insisting that the company was seeking to highlight flaws in the system rather than spark a row with competitors.
“We need to see the EU take action, as this is a clear case of abusing the trust of the consumer,” he added.
Bremans insisted, however, that wider reforms to the Ecolabel scheme are required if the company is to consider carrying the label.
“The Ecolabel criteria are different for every category of product, so there is no overarching standard for maximum toxicity or biodegradability,” he observed, explaining that while washing powders wishing to carry the label had to ensure the toxicity in a single dosage is neutralised by less than 4,500 litres of water, shampoos could rely on up to 20,000 litres to neutralise any toxicity.
“I can understand that products vary, but it is ridiculous that the criteria set no definition for a maximum effect that labelled products can have on the environment,” he said.
Bremans also criticised the fact that the current criteria for carrying the label allow firms to use petrochemicals in their products.
“It’s a terrible shortcoming of the Ecolabel,” he said. “It is surely the basis of a sustainable product that you have to use renewable ingredients.”
The Ecolabel criteria also permit the use of synthetic materials, such as phosphates, phosphonates, polycarboxylates and optical whiteners, all of which Ecover bans from its own products over concerns they damage marine environments.
The European Commission is keen to expand adoption of the Ecolabel and earlier this year the European Parliament voted in favour of new rules designed to make it easier and cheaper for firms to apply to carry the label.
The commission is also currently working on new criteria for about 30 product categories, but Bremans expressed scepticism that the rules would be significantly tightened, particularly given many firms opposition to more demanding criteria.
“We agree with the Ecolabel in principle,” he said. “It makes sense to have one label rather than 30 different labels across Europe – but at the end of the process for agreeing new criteria, big industry comes in and rejects the more severe criteria.
“Ultimately the Ecolabel should be made by people who know something about sustainable products – you don’t expect the meat industry to decide on the criteria for vegetarian products, and vice versa.”