|In its Communication on Integrated Product Policy(IPP) the European Commission reiterated the role of IPP and outlined its guiding principles. This section and the sections explaining the Key Principles of IPP, the Building Blocks of IPP and IPP Tools aim to summarise the Communication in a simplified way.|
Environmental protection has tended to concentrate on large point sources of pollution such as industrial emissions or waste management issues. This approach has often been successful but it only concentrates on minimising environmental burdens at the manufacturing and disposal stages of the life cycle.
To fully address environmental impacts associated with products and services this approach needs to be complemented by a policy that looks at the entire life cycle because environmental impacts originate from all life cycle stages (figure 1).
A Life Cycle Approach
Such an approach should ensure that environmental impacts throughout the life cycle are addressed in an integrated way to avoid shifting impacts from one life cycle stage to another. This should also allow impacts to be addressed at the point in the life cycle where they will most cost-effectively reduce the overall environmental impact and resource use. IPP seeks to achieve this environmental improvement whilst also supporting long term industrial competitiveness.
Effectively targeting the environmental impact of products is becoming increasingly important due to the characteristics of products that make them diffuse objects for pollution reduction measures. For example the quantity of products available is increasing due to increased disposable income and decreased average household size, the variety and types of products available is increasing and products are becoming more complex.
These characteristics mean that to be effective any product policy must be flexible enough to reduce the impacts of an increased number and range of product and service groups and all variations within the groups. IPP is recognised as a potentially very effective way to address the environmental dimension of products.