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Action plan maps route to a circular economy for Europe

March 18, 2020
Borderless Future

The European Commission has adopted a Circular Economy Action Plan, which will be one of the main components of the European Green Deal, as launched in December 2019 .

The new Circular Economy Action Plan includes proposals designed to stimulate the shift to a low-waste, low-carbon economy, in line with Europe’s commitment to become the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.

Taking the form of a policy framework, the plan sets out how legislation, reporting, certification and strategic support will be deployed to facilitate the adoption of circular economy considerations into product value chains, all the way from procurement through design and production to waste minimisation and transformation.

These measures have the aim of ensuring that resources are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible. The plan and its initiatives will be further developed with the involvement of the business and stakeholder communities.

The plan includes detailed proposals by sector, covering packaging, textiles, plastics, electronics and ICT, batteries and vehicles, construction and buildings, and food, water and nutrients. The measures include restrictions on the production of single-use items, requirements for minimum levels of recycled materials, the acceleration of eco-design and labelling plans, as well as waste reduction targets.

Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12% of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy. Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. […] With today’s plan we launch action to transform the way products are made and empower consumers to make sustainable choices for their own benefit and that of the environment.”

An analysis of the plan by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) commends its acknowledgements of the key issues surrounding consumption patterns and footprints, and welcomes its value chain and green procurement recommendations, among others. However it also calls for clearer acknowledgement of the need for an absolute reduction in EU material consumption, and for better use of the potential of environmental tax reform.

The context for the plan, the European Green Deal, specifies actions to “boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy; and restore biodiversity and cut pollution.” Its objective is to maintain economic competitiveness by means of “a growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, in which there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050; economic growth is decoupled from resource use; and no person and no place is left behind.”

A coalition of representatives of European organisations dealing with sustainable resource management broadly welcomed the EC’s ambition with the plan, but noted their disappointment that it does not include “further efforts on the diversion of waste from landfills”.

“Even with progress on recycling rates, approximately 175m tonnes of waste are still being landfilled in Europe annually (and this does not include the enormous amount of mineral wastes also going to landfill). This leads to more than 140m tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions,” it stated. The group is calling on the EC and policymakers to use the most effective measures to minimise large-scale landfilling as soon as possible by ensuring the implementation of the existing targets on municipal waste.

Source: Environment Analyst

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