EU’s new circular economy plan aims to halve waste by 2030

04 February 2020 | Mitigation


The European Commission will aim to “absolutely decouple” economic growth from natural resource use in a draft circular economy action plan due to be unveiled in March.

The draft roadmap, is described as “instrumental” to deliver on Europe’s objective to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.

66% of CO2 emissions are directly related to materials management, the document points out, saying “circularity is a major driver of climate neutrality” that should be incorporated into national climate plans developed by EU member states under the Paris Agreement.

“To absolutely decouple growth from resource use, we must change the way we produce, market, consume and trade, and the way we deal with waste,” the Commission says in the introduction to its new strategy.

The plan is still subject to change but it does give an indication of the Commission’s intentions. And even environmentalists agree the level of ambition is high.

“The draft Circular Economy Action Plan shows many promising elements, notably the ambition to reduce our consumption of resources in absolute terms and to make all products on the European market sustainable,” said Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Officer on Circular Economy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

“We are very happy to see targets for both waste prevention and absolute resource use reduction,”. “On the residual municipal waste target this is quite good,” Schweitzer said.

The circular economy became a key policy theme under the previous Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker. Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans took personal care of the circular economy agenda in the Juncker era and now wants to take it to the next level as part the European Green Deal.

Initiatives in the circular economy roadmap include:

  • New legislation on packaging waste, including essential requirements for packaging.
  • Updated rules on batteries and end-of-life vehicles to ensure high recycling rates for electric cars.
  • A revision of laws on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS).
  • Revising rules on waste shipments, with a view to boosting trade in waste and secondary materials.
  • Boosting trade in secondary raw materials with regional initiatives aimed at “harmonising national end-of-waste and by-product criteria”. Those could be a first step towards EU-wide criteria.
  • A shift to “safe-by-design chemicals” aimed at substituting substances considered harmful to human health and the environment.
  • Stricter verification and labelling rules to ensure bio-based plastics produce genuine environmental benefits.
  • A “comprehensive EU strategy” for textiles and clothing, aimed at stimulating the market for circular textiles.
  • Making drinkable tap water accessible in public places to reduce dependence on bottle water.
  • A “comprehensive strategy for a sustainable built environment” in order to tackle “embodied carbon” in construction products.
  • Eco-design requirements for ICT products and “an EU-wide reward system to return or sell back old mobiles phones,” extend their lifetime and improve their recycling.
  • Promoting circular global value chains in trade discussions, with a “global agreement on plastics” addressing product design and waste management.