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The business world and politicians need to change the current situation so that consumers are able to choose products that genuinely are environmentally friendly. The ‘Blue Angel’ certification was certainly a good step in the right direction but is not enough to really promote resource conservation.
Ideally, consumers should be able to recognise immediately just how green the product they are interested in actually is and to what extent it can be recycled. A recycling label with a simple colour code (similar to the well-known energy efficiency label for electrical appliances) could promote more environmentally friendly consumer behaviour. Manufacturers would be encouraged to follow the strict ecodesign regulations and use recycled raw materials. Consumers know exactly what the colours red, amber and green mean. They would recognise immediately how environmentally-friendly or unfriendly products are. The next step must then be to allow consumers to access full infor-mation about how sustainable the product actually is. A special registration agency or product labelling agency would have to be set up to ensure that such a label was both reliable and credible. All products sold on the EU market should then be checked to make sure they are what they claim to be.
An intelligent use of resources, a high degree of recyclability and low carbon emissions are three of the factors that determine just how green a product really is.
The industry’s response to the call for greater energy efficiency has been to reduce the weight and volume of their products. To be able to achieve this, however, they have had to mix, fuse or stick raw materials together. The result: it is often no longer possible for recycling businesses to separate the composite materials from each other. The only option available is to incinerate the products to generate energy. The raw materials are lost to us forever. Both resource efficiency and the recyclability of a product play a decisive role in countries, such as Germany, that have so few natural resources of their own – impacting on society, industry and the economy. Consumers are dependent on the availability of raw materials for their products but they can exert influence as well. Their consumer behaviour affects both companies and politicians. An action that should be encouraged to help combat climate change, protect the environment and ensure local businesses remain competitive over the long term. Each and every consumer should be given this opportunity.