An environmental labelling scheme has been extended to food and drink products, under new proposals announced this week by the European Commission.
The extension of the Eco-label scheme to include a broader range of products and services is one of several objectives in a package put forward by the Commission on Wednesday to, it claims, improve the environmental performance and energy efficiency of products as well as boost their sales.
Manufacturers must meet EU rules on the environmental impact of their products in order to be able to use the label and each product group is set specific conditions it has to adhere to.
However, an official for the Commission's Directorate-General (DG) Environment told FoodProductionDaily.com that no criteria currently exists to enable food and drink processors apply for the Eco-Label on their products, and that this new Regulation only opens the door to the possibility.
He said that it would be up to 18 months before the Regulation comes into force.
The Eco-label initiative began in 1992 as a way of stimulating manufacturers to reduce the enviromental impact of their products and act as a benchmark for good enviromental practice but it has been criticised as being overly bureaucratic.
According to the official, the proposed revision of the Eco-label scheme will mean the procedure for gaining the environmentally friendly status will be simplified and manufacturers will no longer be charged application fees, which previously amounted to a percentage of their Eco-label product sales.
He added that the DG Environment will target consumers with a campaign in the coming months to increase awareness of what the label stands for.
"In terms of our impact on the planet we are living far beyond our means. Our actions as consumers and producers worldwide are major forces behind climate change and the destruction of nature. The time has come for us to change the type of products we buy and transform our methods of production," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
Consumers will pay more
Meanwhile, research group Eurobarometer, in a survey conducted in March for the European Commission, found that European consumers will generally consider paying more for environmentally friendly manufactured products.
The findings highlight the improved potential for food and drink processors of adapting to greener processing without burdening themselves with additional costs.
The study shows that 75 per cent of respondents would at least consider purchasing environmentally friendly products, with only one fifth of the survey group refusing to change their buying habits completely.
Out of the 75 per cent group of eco-concerned consumers, only 15 per cent of the number was already found to be buying environmentally friendly products, having made such a purchase within the space of a month of taking the survey.
To ensure that consumers were trading up for environmental goods labelling schemes and education would be required to maximize interest, Eurobarometer said.