As a tool to create transparency and enable circularity, the European Commission is proposing the implementation of digital product passports (DPPs) that share product and traceability information across the entire product lifecycle.

Details of the EC’s draft regulation on DPPs will be published in December this year, with final approval expected in 2024, and implementation for the first product groups set for 2026/7. Once in place, any brand that wants to sell a product in the EU (including those sold online) will have to comply. However, many elements in the draft regulation regarding scope, technology, and data currently remain open with different levels of maturity.

Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino Printing Sciences, outlines what the implementation of DPPs means for businesses and where to get started to stay ahead of the curve.


What are Digital Product Passports?

Digital Product Passports are proposed tools for collecting and sharing product data throughout a product’s lifecycle, used to illustrate its sustainability, environmental, and recyclability attributes. A DPP is essentially a product-specific data set, that would structure regulatory and discretionary disclosure attributes.

It can inform consumers and other stakeholders in the product lifecycle on a product’s origin, material composition, repair, and disassembly options, as well as how the various components can be recycled. The European Commission is proposing the application of DPPs to support the circular economy, decarbonisation, sustainability, and to create transparency by making product information available across the entire value chain. Once in place, DPPs will assist with further legislative enforcement, including extended producer responsibility.

Whilst still nascent, adopting DPPs early offers clear benefits to businesses, such as increased consumer trust, regulatory compliance, increased visibility and traceability of products, and broader engagement with global sustainability goals.

The Ecosystem Digital Product Passport (CIRPASS) prepares the ground for gradual piloting and deployment of DPPs in Europe.

What might a DPP include?

With the regulation still in draft format, speculation remains about the final data requirements for a DPP. However, it is almost guaranteed that any digital passport will include the following elements:

  • Basic product data, such as name, weight, batch number, manufacturing date and site, and warranty details
  • Material data, including raw material and component origin, suppliers involved in the sourcing process, certifications for ingredient provenance (e.g. sustainable palm oil), the percentage of recycled content
  • Traceability data: product history, chain of custody, details on current and past owners (particularly for long-lasting products that can be resold)
  • Repair and recycling data: information about the overall repairability of the product, plus specific repair events and instructions for end-of-life disposal. Such data would be relevant for manufacturers dealing with warranties, general repairers, and recycling centres
  • Sustainability data, e.g. a product’s carbon footprint, water use, and land/ sea/ air miles travelled.

From a consumer perspective, access to this data would allow an individual to compare products on the supermarket shelf based on ingredients, carbon emissions, or other information that might be of personal or lifestyle value and make an informed choice about the products they endorse.

It may include information on returns, manufacturer contact details, or instructions on how to prepare a product and its packaging for recycling. This is particularly relevant when we consider that 91% of all plastic waste is still not recycled by consumers, much of which ends up in landfills.

Similarly, the benefits extend to businesses, with manufacturers more easily able to track faults or issues back to their source and enable alerts to be issued on other products that may have a similar issue. And, at the end of a product’s usable life, DPPs can be used to create a picture of how much waste is being caused by a particular product, product range, or manufacturer – enabling them to address causes of waste and contribute positively to sustainability and net zero goals.

Adopting the Digital Product Passport

Manufacturers are unlikely to be able to afford to wait for the draft regulation to be finalised before starting to take steps to adopt the DPP. The DPP will require a database to store all product information, with a separate code to link to information pertaining to individual products.

The industry is already working towards a system that will facilitate this, with an emphasis on open-source solutions that allow for collaboration, consistency, and best practice and that will enable existing and new regulations to be easily aligned.

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Also, if you’re interested in packaging sustainability, you will want to attend our Sustainable Packaging Summit in Amsterdam on 14-15 November. The Summit brings together leaders and pioneers from across the industry to align strategically, learn, network, and create a critical mass to accelerate change. You can learn more by clicking here, and you can buy a ticket to attend here.