The new Action Plan announces initiatives for the entire life cycle of products, from design and manufacturing to consumption, repair, reuse, recycling, and bringing resources back into the economy. It introduces legislative and non-legislative measures and targets areas where action at the EU level brings added value. The Action Plan is at the core of the European Green Deal, the EU roadmap towards climate-neutrality. Half of total greenhouse gas emissions come from resource extraction and processing. It is not possible to achieve the climate-neutrality target by 2050 without transitioning to a fully circular economy.
The aim of the Action Plan is to reduce the EU’s consumption footprint and double the EU’s circular material use rate in the coming decade, while boosting economic growth. This will be done in full cooperation with stakeholders and business. Applying ambitious circular economy measures in Europe can increase EU’s GDP by an additional 0.5% by 2030 and create around 700,000 new jobs.
The circular economy can make a decisive contribution to the decarbonisation of our economy. In the past few years only, several studies have shown the substantial potential of circularity as a tool for climate mitigation.
The Commission will step up the synergies between achieving circularity and climate neutrality. All actions in the Action Plan will contribute to reducing both EU’s carbon and material footprint. In parallel, the Commission will work with Member State to promote circularity in future revisions of the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) and in other climate policies.
- electronics and ICT
The Action Plan proposes setting up a ‘Circular Electronics Initiative’ to promote longer product lifetimes through reusability and reparability as well as upgradeability of components and software to avoid premature obsolescence.
The sector will be a priority area for implementing the ‘right to repair’. The Commission is aiming to adopt new regulatory measures for mobile phones, tablets and laptops under the Ecodesign Directive, as well as new regulatory measures on chargers for mobile phones and similar devices. An EU-wide take back scheme to return or sell back old mobile phones, tablets and chargers will also be considered.
The Action Plan announces a comprehensive policy framework that will aim to strengthen industrial competitiveness and innovation, boosting the EU market for sustainable and circular textiles, including the market for textile reuse, and driving new business models.
Textiles are the fourth highest-pressure category for the use of primary raw materials and water, and fifth for greenhouse gas emissions. This future strategy will boost the market for sustainable and circular textiles, including the market for textile reuse. It will support new consumption patterns and business models. The Commission will also provide guidance on separate collection of textile waste, which Member States have to ensure by 2025.
The Commission will work with the industry and market actors to identify bottlenecks in circularity for textiles and stimulate market innovation.
The Action Plan builds on the 2018 Plastics strategy, and focuses on increasing recycled plastic content. Mandatory requirements on recycled content will be suggested in areas such as packaging, construction materials and vehicles.
The Action Plan addresses also challenges related to microplastics and sourcing and use of bio-based plastics bio-based and biodegradable plastics. On microplastics, the Commission will restrict the intentional adding of microplastics. It will also work on their unintentional release, further developing and harmonising measurement methods, pursuing labelling, certification and regulatory measures, and consider measures to increase the capture of microplastics in wastewater.
- construction and buildings
The building sector consumes about 50% of all extracted material and is responsible for more than 35% of the Union’s total waste generation.
The Commission will adopt a new comprehensive Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment to promote circularity principles throughout the whole lifecycle of buildings. The Commission will propose to revise the Construction Product Regulation, which may include recycled content requirements for certain construction products.
The amount of materials used for packaging is continuously growing and in 2017 packaging waste in Europe reached 173 kg per inhabitant – the highest level ever.
The Commission will propose measures to ensure that the increase in the generation of packaging waste is reversed as a matter of priority, including by setting targets and other waste prevention measures.
The Commission’s aim is to make all packaging placed on the EU market reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. The Commission will propose to reinforce the mandatory essential requirements for all packaging placed on the EU market.
- batteries and vehicles
The Commission will propose a new regulatory framework for batteries. It will include measures to improve the collection and recycling rates of all batteries and ensure the recovery of valuable materials, sustainability requirements for batteries, the level of recycled content in new batteries, and the provision of information to consumers.
The Commission will propose the revision of the rules on end-of-life vehicles in order to improve recycling efficiency, as well as rules to address the sustainable tretatement of waste oils
An estimated 20% of the total food produced is lost or wasted in the EU. The Commission will propose a target on food waste reduction as part of the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy. That Strategy will address the entire food value chain to ensure the sustainability of the sector – strengthening efforts to tackle climate change, protect the environment and preserve biodiversity.
The Commission will launch analytical work to determine the scope of a legislative initiative on reuse to replace single-use food packaging, tableware and cutlery by reusable products in food services.
The transition towards a circular economy be monitored
In 2021, the Commission will update the existing monitoring framework with indicators related to the current action plan and reflecting the interlinkages between circularity, climate neutrality and the zero pollution ambition. Indicators on resource use, including our consumption and material footprints will also be further developed. The Commission will also reinforce the monitoring of circular economy national plans and other national circular economy measures, including under the efforts to refocus the European Semester process towards integrating a stronger sustainability dimension.