EU Ecolabel Criteria for furniture and the SUSBIND survey

For the occasion of the Final Online Conference on June 1, 2022, SUSBIND was honoured to host Antonio Delre – Project Officer at Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, who presented the latest developments on the EU Ecolabel criteria for furniture. Here are some highlights of his presentation.

The EU Ecolabel is an EU voluntary label for eco excellence set in Regulation 66/2010 released in 2010 and established thirty years ago. It certifies products with a guaranteed, independently-verified low environmental impact. To be awarded the EU Ecolabel goods and services should meet high environmental standard throughout their entire life-cycle, from an analysis of the raw material extraction through production and distribution to disposal. Products are classified into mini-product groups and there almost 90 000 products awarded so far with more than 2000 licences. A company can get a licence within mini-products, so mini products can be part of more than one licence.

When observing the number of products and licences for furniture awarded in the last eight years, one can notice an increase in number for both categories from 2019 until today. This trend was triggered by the regulation of the Danish authorities to allow only EU Ecolabel furniture in public procurement. Public authorities within the EU are major consumers of EU Ecolabel furniture and they represent 40% of the EU growth domestic product.

EU Ecolabel criteria

EU Ecolabel criteria are set in the European Commission Decision (EU) 2016/1332 and are valid until July 2022 and the current validity will be extended according to Antonio Delre – Project Officer at JRC.

The product group ‘furniture’ includes free-standing or built-in units whose primary function is to be used for the storage, placement or hanging of items and/or to provide surfaces where users can rest, sit, eat, study or work, whether for indoor or outdoor use. The scope extends to domestic furniture and contract furniture items for use in domestic or non-domestic environments. Bed frames, legs, bases and headboards are included in the scope.

The following products are excluded from the EU Ecolabel scope:

(a) Bed mattresses, which are covered by the criteria set out in Commission Decision 2014/391/EU (3), (b) Products whose primary function is not to be used as per paragraph 1, including streetlights, railings and fences, ladders, clocks, playground equipment, stand-alone or wall-hung mirrors, electrical conduits, road bollards and building products such as steps, doors, windows, floor coverings and cladding.

(c) Second-hand, refinished, refurbished or remanufactured furniture products.

(d) Furniture fitted in vehicles used for public or private transit.

(e) Furniture products which consist of more than 5 % (weight by weight) of materials not included in the following list: solid wood, wood-based panels, cork, bamboo, rattan, plastics, metals, leather, coated fabrics, textiles, glass and padding/filling materials.

The EU Ecolabel criteria are classified in the following eleven categories:

  1. Product description
  2. General requirements for hazardous substances and mixtures (Substances of Very High Concern)
  3. Wood, cork, bamboo and rattan
  4. Plastics
  5. Metals
  6. Upholstery covering materials
  7. Upholstery padding materials
  8. Glass: use of heavy metals
  9. Final product requirements
  10. Consumer information
  11. Information appearing on the EU Ecolabel

Final product requirements are quite important as they include: easy disassembly for repair, reuse and recycling, extended product guarantee and provision of spare parts.

The criteria number 3 is relevant for furniture as it sets the requirements for:

  • Sustainable wood
  • Contaminants in recycled wood used in wood-based panels
  • Heavy metals and VOC in paints, primers and varnishes
  • Formaldehyde emissions from wood-based panels

Formaldehyde emissions from wood-based panels

Formaldehyde emissions from wood-based panels within the EU Ecolabel must be below one of these three requirements: 50% of the threshold value classified in E1 (EN 13986)- European standard, or below 65% of the threshold value of E1 (EN 13986) for MDF or alternatively be lower that the limits set in CARB Phase IIm JIS F-3 star and JIS F-4 star.

All these requirements apply only if the content in the wood-based panel exceeds 5% of the whole weight of the product. Additionally, it applies in the boards that are used in the furniture products manufactured by using the formaldehyde-based resins.

Figure 1: Proposed ecodesign reqirements

Future developments

This year there was a Proposal COM (2022) 142 for Eco-design for Sustainable Product Regulation by the European Commission, which is a framework legislation. Within this package furniture was spot to be a suitable candidate to be included in the first working plan. This means as soon as this regulation goes through scrutiny of the EU Parliament and the Council, it is likely that there will be A specific Delegated Act addressing the eco-design of furniture. The next revision of the EU Ecolabel criteria will consider the requirements reported in the delegated Act for furniture.

Proposed eco-design requirements include general qualities such as durability, reparability and reusability to name only a few important ones.  The SUSBIND project is currently finalising the results of an EU Ecolabel survey that is part of an industry-led White Paper for the EU Ecolabel revision. SUSBIND can therefore provide an important support in withholding these requirements according to Delre.

You can read the recent preliminary results of the SUSBIND survey here.

Download the full presentation on the EU Ecolabel here: Antonio Delre EC EU_Ecolabel_for_furniture.