The industry needs to be aware of the EU’s plan for a circular economy

Roman’s managing director, David Osborne, looks at how wet rooms and inclusive design are trends set to continue and grow and why a new EU recycling directive may shape materials used in the future

Showering has seen a huge shift towards inclusive products, which have now become firmly mainstream and this trend is one set to continue well into the foreseeable future thanks to UK demographics. One-in-six people are aged over 65, with more than 11 million people having a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability.

Much research has gone into inclusive design and recognising this present and future trend, every R&D project now ensures that all user groups are taken into account. People are no longer happy with ‘traditional’ disabled products, they want stylish and inspirational bathroom designs that also offer easy access.

Research, marketing and better data analysis help us understand the needs of the user looking forward, providing manufacturers and retailers with a strong knowledge base of our customers.

We offer low-level shower trays, which are 40mm high (10 to 15 years ago the average height was 180mm) or some solid-surface options can be level-access when installed straight to joists. Wet rooms are the ultimate inclusive product for showering, as they present no mechanisms to operate and no step up to access the shower. Wet rooms are no longer exclusive – they are a mainstream product, offering a stylish and minimalist design with inclusivity and achievable price points.

Showers have become more popular than baths, as they are quicker and easier to fit into our busy and hectic lifestyles and they provide the benefit of using less water, which in turn saves money on water bills.

Environmental influence

The link between water usage and household bills has been heavily promoted to the consumer, encouraging people to be more aware and conscious of their water usage habits.

Environmental factors are now impacting on all sectors of the KBB industry, from manufacturers to retailers and in turn influencing consumer choice. As an industry, we are now very much aware of, and affected by, certain environmental issues and challenges that we knew little about a couple of years ago but are set to gain in importance in the future. There is a lot happening in the bathroom industry to try to combat water-related issues, which manufacturers must play a major part in to drive and support the initiatives.

Awareness has been placed on water wastage and scarcity, hot water dangers and educating people on good water usage habits. Campaigns have included: the successful Water Label, which was created and is led by the Bathroom Manufacturers Association; the introduction of water meters into homes; the Hot Water Burns like Fire campaign to help decrease hot water accidents in the home; and the addition of advanced regulations for new-build homes.

Another environmental issue the bathroom industry is trying to tackle is the use of harsh chemicals in cleaning products, as there is evidence that they can damage the product and the environment. While low-level shower trays were initially met with scepticism and these environmental issues were mocked by many, be aware of the circular economy. The KBB industry needs to know about, and may have to implement, changes for the next major item on the EU’s agenda – a transition to a more circular economy.

The Circular Economy plan includes long-term targets to reduce landfill and to increase preparation for reuse and recycling of key waste streams, such as municipal and packaging waste.

As a first step under the framework of the Ecodesign directive, the Commission has developed, and will propose shortly to Member States, mandatory product design and marketing requirements to make it easier and safer to dismantle, reuse and recycle.

The increasing use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) for building products will ensure that this is embedded with manufacturers and architects. The EU is also highlighting that the Circular Economy will become a mandatory requirement across all product standards – this will happen.

Ultimately, companies need to be aware of how and if their products can be recycled, and to then market this to the end user. The issue here is the reclassification of what constitutes “recycling”. The clear aim is that, in time, the recycling of products will definitely influence consumer choice, making it a valuable and competitive marketing tool for manufacturers and retailers.

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