Europe’s new circular economy package will be ‘country-specific’

The European Commission's 'more ambitious' circular economy package will include country-specific waste-reduction targets and a specific roadmap for the implementation of closed-loop business processes.

Speaking at the 2015 European Circular Economy Conference in Brussels last week, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, explained that the re-tabled waste legislative proposal will be “more country-sensitive”, addressing a range of economic sectors in addition to waste.

“The Commission is aiming to present a new, more ambitious circular economy package late in 2015, to transform Europe into a more competitive resource-efficient economy,” said Vella. “The package will include a new legislative proposal on waste targets, taking into account the input already given to us during public consultations, and by Council and in Parliament, in particular the comments made by many that the previous waste proposal needed to be more country-specific.

“This new proposal will use the expert knowledge already gained to be more country sensitive. I want to assure you that we will keep our EU-wide goals on recycling levels.”

Circular economy benefits

First announced in July 2014, the European Commission’s circular economy package featured a proposed 70% recycling and reuse target for 2030, as well as a requirement for Member States to recycle 80% of packaging waste by 2030. But in December, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans confirmed those proposals would be scrapped; to be replaced by a ‘broader and more ambitious’ waste package in late 2015.

The need for a more ambitious European waste policy is clear: in 2012, total waste production in the EU amounted to 2.5 billion tonnes – an average of five tonnes per inhabitant per year. From this total, only 36% was effectively recycled, with 37% – around 1620 million tonnes – sent to landfill. Recent estimates show that increasing productivity by 30% would boost GDP by nearly 1%, while creating more than two million jobs – many of which would be here in the UK.

Vella, who was in charge of reviewing the initial package, reiterated that the Commission will continue to promote eco-innovation and investment in clean technologies, which itself could bring in net savings of €600bn – or 8% of annual turnover – for businesses in the EU, while reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2/4%.

“The preparatory report on the European Strategic Investment Plan highlights the importance of resource efficiency, identifying it as one of the key objectives,” Vella said. “This should translate into firm support for eco-innovation projects, actively complementing the considerable support already available via the European Structural and Investment Funds.”

Better business

The Environment Commissioner also confirmed that the new circular economy package will include a roadmap for further action on the circular economy, considering both upstream (the production and use) and downstream (after products are no longer ‘waste’) phases.

“Both these aspects – the waste targets review and the roadmap – will come together before the end of this year,” Vella said. “The more I look at the two sides – the environment and the economy – the more convinced I become that the way forward is to fully integrate resource efficiency into the way we do business in Europe.”

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie