Yesterday the European Commission adopted a new Circular Economy Package to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy which will boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.
“To ensure sustainable growth for the EU – the Commission writes in a note – we have to use our resources in a smarter, more sustainable way. It is clear that the linear model of economic growth we relied on in the past is no longer suited for the needs of today’s modern societies in a globalised world. We cannot build our future on a ‘take-make-dispose’ model. Many natural resources are finite, we must find an environmentally and economically sustainable way of using them. It is also in the economic interest of businesses to make the best possible use of their resources.”
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “Today we are saying that Europe is the best place to grow a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business. This transition towards a more circular economy is about reshaping the market economy and improving our competitiveness. If we can be more resource efficient and reduce our dependency on scarce raw materials, we can develop a competitive edge. The job creation potential of the circular economy is huge, and the demand for better, more efficient products and services is booming.
To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the Commission is putting forward a Circular Economy Package, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Action Plan setting out a concrete mandate for this Commission’s term of office. The Waste Proposals establish a long-term vision to increase recycling and reduce landfilling, while proposing concrete measures to address obstacles on the ground in terms of improvement of waste management and taking into account the different situations across Member States.
The Action Plan on the Circular Economy complements this proposal by setting out measures to “close the loop” of the circular economy and tackle all phases in the lifecycle of a product: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The action plan also includes a number of actions that will target market barriers in specific sectors or material streams, such as plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and bio-based products, as well as horizontal measures in areas such as innovation and investment.
The aim of the plan is to focus on issues where EU level action brings real added value and is capable of making a difference on the ground.
Waste prevention, ecodesign, re-use and similar measures could bring net savings of €600 billion, or 8% of annual turnover, for businesses in the EU, while reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4 %. In the sectors of re-use, re-manufacturing and repair, for example, the cost of remanufacturing mobile phones could be halved if it were easier to take them apart. If 95% of mobile phones were collected, this could generate savings on manufacturing material costs of more than €1 billion. A shift from recycling to refurbishing light commercial vehicles, where collection rates are already high, could save material inputs by €6.4 billion per year (about 15% of material budget) & €140 million in energy costs and reduce GHG emissions by 6.3 million tonnes.
Better product design is key to facilitate recycling and help make products that are easier to repair or more durable, thus saving precious resources, promoting innovation and providing consumers with better products, which are less costly to use. At the same time, current market signals are not always sufficient to make this happen, hence incentives are needed.
The Commission will support reparability, durability, and recyclability in product requirements under the next working plans implementing the Ecodesign Directive, taking into account specific requirements of different products; prepare an independent testing programme under Horizon 2020 to help the identification of issues related to potential planned obsolescence; propose requirements making it easier to dismantle, reuse and recycle electronic displays; propose the differentiation of financial contributions paid by producers under an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme on the basis of the end-of-life-costs of their products.
This provision under the revised legislative proposal on waste creates economic incentives for the design of products that can be more easily recycled or reused; examine options for a more coherent policy framework for the different strands of work on sectoral EU product policies and their contribution to the circular economy; consider proportionate requirements on the availability of repair information and spare parts in its work on Ecodesign; propose rewards for the promotion of certain preparation for reuse activities at national level in the revised proposal on waste; work towards better enforcement of the guarantees on tangible products and examine possible options for improvement, as well tackle false green claims; take action on Green Public Procurement (GPP), by emphasising circular economy aspects in new or revised criteria, supporting higher uptake of GPP, and leading by example through Commission procurement and EU funds.
The Commission is now calling on the European Parliament and Council to build on this “important preparatory work” and prioritise adoption and implementation of yesterday’s legislative proposals.