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German Voluntary Ecolabel “Blue Angel” for Consumer Products Including Electronics, Textiles, Toys and Shoes Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Hong Kong sellers familiar with the German market may already know that the product label “Blue Angel” aims to provide reliable guidance to consumers when it comes to making more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions, while guaranteeing that a product or service meets high standards. The “Blue Angel” stands for the protection of the environment and health, resources, water and the climate.

When first launched in 1978, the “Blue Angel” included six product groups, among which were CFC-free spray cans, low-noise lawn mowers and returnable bottles. Today, it covers 113 product groups.

The wide product range covered by the “Blue Angel” label includes products for the household (e.g., household lamps, textiles and furniture), many kinds of electrical devices (e.g., televisions, hair dryers and baby monitors), construction materials (e.g., flooring, varnishes and wallpapers), office equipment (e.g., computers, monitors, printers, multifunction devices and telephone systems), solar-powered products and solar collectors, garden tools and vehicles. Climate-friendly logistics services, returnable beverage cups and two textile products are to be certified in the near future for the use of this ecolabel.

The voluntary labelling system focuses on aspects of durability, recyclability and sustainability. The “Blue Angel” is said to guarantee that a given product has a lower environmental impact and greater health protection when compared with many similar products. Smartphones labelled with the Blue Angel, for example, must feature a replaceable storage battery and have low radiation emissions. Cleaning agents and detergents must not contain microplastics.

While traditionally the “Blue Angel” is an ecolabel, it has in the meantime evolved to add social aspects to its award criteria, for example with regard to smartphones, textiles, toys and shoes. In particular, textile products must be friendly to the environment and be produced under fair conditions, respecting the prohibition of forced labour, the minimum working age in clothing factories while banning the use of pesticides in cotton plantations.

For Hong Kong traders who export to Germany, it may be well worth considering whether their products qualify for the “Blue Angel”, as it is highly regarded and well known in Germany. With its 40th anniversary this year, the label’s renown will continue to increase.

In the near future, the label will be focussing on digitalization, planning to introduce an award scheme for servers and resource-efficient software.

The German Federal Environment Agency develops strict award criteria based on scientific research in cooperation with experts for every individual product group. There are special requirements for each of the currently 113 product groups which are reviewed every three to five years and continually refined with a view to being up-to-date. Vacuum cleaners, for example, must meet more than 25 requirements and printers nearly 100 before the ecolabel is awarded.

Among the award criteria, energy consumption, material requirements and emissions are taken into consideration. The awarding of the “Blue Angel” label follows a multidimensional approach: producers who apply for the label should ideally ensure that their respective products are simultaneously energy efficient, durable, with low radiation, exhaust or noise emissions, and easily recyclable.

For example, the “Blue Angel” requires products such as laptops or vacuum cleaners to be designed in a way which allows them to be easily dismantled in order to better separate plastic from other components. Furthermore, the number of different types of plastics used is limited in order to guarantee unmixed source materials for recycling. Products made of plastic must contain at least 80% recycled plastic.

The label is awarded by the independent Environmental Label Jury which consists of representatives of environmental and consumer associations, trade unions, the association of German cities and towns, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and two among the 16 federal states on a rotating basis. The “Blue Angel” is awarded to products distinguishing themselves by greater environmental friendliness when compared to other products which serve the same purpose.

The evaluation of the product prior to the award always takes into account its entire life cycle. The analysis considers as many aspects of environmental and health protection as possible for the respective product.

The Basic Award Criteria for each product group are available to read or download from the “Blue Angel” website. The use of the “Blue Angel” by the applying company is governed by a contract on the use of the environmental label which also regulates the type of use and the period of validity. The amount of the fee for use of the label is determined by the total yearly sales of all of the products or services awarded with the environmental label in accordance with the corresponding Basic Award Criteria, and ranges from 320 EUR to 10,500 EUR.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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