In response to international environmental concerns, a number of directives have been introduced in recent years, requiring corporations to minimise certain environmental impacts of their products, or else face penalties and possible legal action in the countries concerned.

These directives have primarily been introduced by the European Union. The European Community Programme of Policy and Action states that:

“the achievement of sustainable development calls for significant changes in current patterns of development, production, consumption and behaviour, and advocates the …reduction of wasteful consumption of natural resources and the prevention of pollution”

The sector being most heavily targeted at present is the electrical and electronics sector due to the scale of the sector itself, and the significant environmental problems associated with it. Other sectors that have been significantly affected by the new directives are the motor vehicle and packaging industries, but it is inevitable that new directives will be developed to cover all major sectors that cause significant environmental degradation.

It is important that designers are aware of the relevant regulations and know how to meet the requirements. However, the number of regulations is constantly increasing and those relating to end of life treatment apply to many products that have already been produced. This means that designers should be trying to reduce the environmental impact of their designs even before the regulations are written.

Ignoring environmental factors in the design process means that designers are “creating financial time bombs for their clients” (Datschefski, 2004)

More information is available by clicking on the directives listed below: