European Commission adopts Circular Economy Package

The Brussels-based European Commission officially has adopted a new Circular Economy Package that it says is intended to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. The package was adopted 2 December 2015 with stated goals to boost the European Union’s global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.

The Commission says the package is intended to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy in which resources are used in a more sustainable way. The proposals cover the full life cycle, from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product life cycles through greater recycling and reuse and will bring benefits to the environment and the economy. The plans will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, the Commission says, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This transition will be supported financially by ESIF (European Structural & Investment) funding, €650 million from Horizon 2020 (the European Union funding programme for research and innovation), €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management and national level investments.

A core project team co-chaired by First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice President Jyrki Katainen with the close involvement of Commissioners Karmenu Vella and Elzbieta Bienkowska prepared the package. Many other commissioners also were involved in its preparation.

Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said, “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw-away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them.

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” he continued. “By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy, we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs.

“With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen. It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle,” Timmermans added. “This mix of smart regulation and incentives at the EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation.”

Key actions adopted or to be carried out under the current mandate include:

  • funding of more than €650 million under Horizon 2020 and of €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
  • actions to reduce food waste, including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
  • measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products in addition to energy efficiency;
  • facilitating the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilisers; and
  • a strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability and the presence of hazardous substances in plastics.