The announcement was made earlier today by the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik during a keynote speech at the European Resource Efficiency Forum in Berlin, Germany.

The move will form part of a broader strategy to drive greater resource-efficiency across EU member states and builds on a number of existing policy strands including the EU Resource Efficiency Roadmap and budget proposals to integrate greener initiatives into mainstream funding for research.

Potočnik spoke of how over the next two years, the EC would look to stimulate the green economy through the creation of a single market for sustainable products that will boost supply and demand for more resource-efficient goods.

“Both business and consumers are asking us for good tools to enable them to recognise the genuine green products and companies on the market,” he said, adding that eco-design and energy labelling would be key in this respect.

“I will be working already in the next two years on developing approaches to integrating material efficiency and water efficiency into eco-design for those product categories where we identify the highest potential benefits, ensuring durability, water efficiency and recyclability.”

As part of this drive, Potočnik highlighted waste as an “obvious area for action”, pointing out that 10 member states were still landfilling more than 70% of municipal waste arisings.

“Eliminating such landfilling and meeting higher recycling rates could create additional 130,000 jobs and €15bn turnover for the waste sector. Full implementation of the waste legislation could increase turnover by more than €40bn,” he told delegates.

“It is against this background that we will review the existing targets in our waste legislation in 2014, and I would encourage you to participate in the consultation process on this next year.”

The Commissioner also touched on the importance of investment and said it was the role of member states to mobilise investment to ensure innovation happens on a large enough scale.

He said early next year, the EC policy makers will launch a round table of investors to examine how best funding obstacles can be addressed.

“We must provide the framework conditions and predictability for the transition to a resource-efficient economy to take place in a less disruptive and less costly way, whilst creating a level playing field that will reward the best performers and put European companies in the lead,” he maintained.

Signalling that food and buildings would be priority areas for action next year as they have some of the biggest impacts in resource use, Potočnik told delegates that efficiency gains would be looked for here, involving the whole value chain – from production, processing and distribution, to use, reuse, recycling and disposal.

Resource efficiency in itself would not be enough however, he added – Europe must now work towards a circular economy whereby designing for recyclability, repair and reuse are at the forefront of the agenda.

“Developing industrial symbiosis, new business models, better markets for secondary raw materials, and sustainable sourcing … in short, seeking inspiration from the way that nature works to drive a system change in our economies and societies,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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