The emphasis here is on products whose purpose is to cause harm, and products that are likely to cause harm – to people, organisms or ecosystems – when used as intended or at their end of life.
One of the most common ways in which products can cause unintentional harm is through the substances they contain. Some products are already widely known to be harmful (e.g. cigarettes). Other substances may not seem immediately harmful, but if nature cannot break them down rapidly they may – through emission into air, land or water – systematically build up in the environment to dangerous levels.
Substances that have a higher potential to systematically build up in nature, and thus are of greatest concern, include those that are scarce in nature (e.g. trace metals such as cadmium), those that are persistent (e.g. CFCs), and those that are emitted in large volumes (e.g. NOx).
A future-fit product can contain such substances only if they are kept in tight closed loops, and retrieved at the end of the product’s life. Public waste handling cannot always be relied upon, so the onus is on the company to ensure that such products are repurposed safely.