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Digital Product Passports: New Euro Law can Boost Surfing's Eco Credentials

Get ready to welcome Digital Product Passports (DPPs) as part of your shopping experience when you buy a new surfboard in the near future. In fact, DPPs will inevitably apply to wetsuits, clothing and just about any physical item sold by a brand. This consumer tool, or behavioural nudge mechanism, has been designed with circular economy principles at its core and is potentially just a few years away.

Initially planned for consumers to scan and access a product’s sustainability profile, this European-driven initiative will, over time, apply to most everyday items—including surf gear. That's right, even surfing equipment (in Europe at least) will need a DPP by law within the next six years. And barring an almighty failure in its launch and roll-out, it’ll most likely set a precedent for the rest of the world to follow.

An informal agreement was first mooted by the European Parliament in December 2023, and the forthcoming new legal requirement, named the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), is essentially an up-to-date makeover for consumer laws. It's a signal of a massive shift in how things are made and how an item's creation story is shared. Almost all new products in the EU market will eventually need to prove their sustainability, durability, and recyclability, meaning Aussie surf businesses could soon feel the pressure to paddle into the circular economy wave—or risk losing access to the EU market. It's a bold move, but one that's crucial if we're serious about walking the walk on sustainability.

Jim Goddin, a circular economy expert at thinkstep-anz, recently sounded the alarm for businesses to get ready for this change. Drawing on his experience with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Goddin highlights the fundamentals of circularity versus a traditional recycling mindset:


Now is the time for businesses to get ready [for Digital Product Passports]. The circular economy isn’t the same as recycling. While recycling is an important solution and converts waste into reusable material, the recycling process can sometimes devalue that material. The circular economy is a concept that changes how we produce and consume goods, it moves us away from the current linear model of making, using and throwing away.”


What will a Digital Product Passport look like?

Using surfboards as an example, these digital records will track a board's journey through its entire lifecycle, providing vital information on its composition and history. Think of it as a virtual travel diary for your product. Imagine scanning a QR code in a surf shop on a surfboard you've got your eye on, but you're unsure about its environmental impact and want to learn more. You'll instantly know where and when that board was made, the type and origin of the raw materials used (including any materials that have been reused or recycled), any energy consumption and carbon emissions from the creation of the board, and a number of other key metrics that'll explain full transparency from cradle to grave.

With this data in hand, companies can optimise their resources, reduce waste, and empower consumers to make informed choices. As the old saying goes: what gets measured, gets managed. Displaying a Digital Product Passport on your product labels should, in theory, be fairly straightforward. Just slap a QR code or barcode onto your product's wash care label or swing tag. Once your customers scan it with their smartphone, they'll get all the juicy details about their item's journey in a flash.


What this means for Aussie brands.

If you're dealing with the EU market, or supplying those who are, you'll want to start planning DPPs for your products in the coming years. Here's the lowdown on what businesses will likely need to be transparent on:

  • How tough is your product? Can it take a beating and still come out swinging? Bonus points if it's easily fixed or upgraded.
  • Any sneaky ingredients in there that can't be recycled or passed on? We're talking about stuff like coatings that mess with composting or chemicals that limit its uses.
  • Is your product an energy-saving champ? Let's hear about how efficient it is with resources.
  • Got any recycled content in the mix? The more, the merrier.
  • Can your product be reborn or recycled into something new? We love a good makeover story.
  • And what's its carbon footprint like? Time to spill the beans on how eco-friendly your product really is.


Planning ahead: Early steps to consider.

Consider this... it's not just another hurdle, it's an opportunity to showcase your product's journey. Start preparing sooner rather than later and expect some verification hoops, and assume everything will be publicly accessible and open to being critiqued. Consider how you'll handle, store, and share all that useful info as it could be useful in other realms, such as dropping in your brand's Impact Report, or highlighting that data in a blog or social media post. What story do you want your customers to hear? Back it up with solid evidence. And consider how your products will stand out in the line-up by assessing your competition: how can you make your products' sustainability and circularity story shine brighter than the rest?


Predicted timeline rollout for DPPs.

Curious about when you'll need that passport? Batteries (scheduled as first up in the EU), vehicles, textiles, electronics and ICT, furniture, plastics, construction materials, and chemicals will be the main industries initially kicking off. While the exact timeline is still in the works, it's looking like 2026/7 will be the launch date for those industries to require DPPs in the EU. And other products are slated to jump on the bandwagon by 2030. So, the surfing industry potentially has less than six years to prepare for this, maybe sooner.

Better get your passports ready for inspection…


Further reading.

Check out our blog archive, in particular this case study of Patagonia (who will no doubt be frothing for the chance to share their high standards in a DPP), and also How Surfboards Can Inspire The World, featuring interviews with top industry innovators and our own suggestions of product stewardship actions that can be applied to the surf industry. 

We welcome the introduction of Digital Product Passports as it's clearly a positive step forward for the planet. This initiative's likely to put pressure on manufacturers to up their game and be accountable for the environmental impact of their products and processes. We've been encouraging similar themes for a number of years here at Wavechanger, namely the systemic levers of sustainability, manufacturing, and consumer behaviours, such as:

(links to Instagram posts)

Extended producer responsibility

Circular economy basics

Consumer behaviours

The importance of the design stage

Product transparency.


Top image credit: blacksalmon -

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