EC unveils Circular Economy Action Plan

11 March 2020

The European Commission (EC) has unveiled a Circular Economy Action Plan that  could have far-reaching effects on products being sold within the EU.

The plan aims to ensure that products being sold in the EU last longer and contain more recycled materials.

The EC believes such a policy can create a 5% growth in the EU economy by 2030 and 700,000 new jobs.

Part of the European Green Deal agenda, the plan seeks to ensure resources are reused within the EU economy as many times as possible along their entire life cycle.

The EC intends legislation to ensure products are designed to last longer, and are easier to reuse, repair and recycle.

Laws will also stipulate that they use recycled materials where possible instead of primary raw materials.

Single use products and those with built-in premature obsolescence may well fall foul of such laws.

The destruction of unsold durable goods will be banned.

The EC is planning to focus most strongly on sectors that use most resources, such as electronics and ICT, where products will be obliged to have longer lifespans and where collection and treatment of waste will be improved.

A new regulatory framework is likely to affect batteries and vehicles to enhance their sustainability.

New requirements on packaging will aim to reduce over-packaging and laws will mandate certain amounts of recycled plastic. A new EU strategy for textiles will boost the market for textile reuse.

Construction and buildings will be subject to new principles that aim to give a higher priority to circular use of materials.

There will also be new legislation on single-use food packaging, tableware and cutlery.

The plan also aims to avoid creating waste altogether, instead transforming it into quality secondary resources that will benefit from a well functioning market for recycled material.

The EC said it would explore setting up an EU-wide, harmonised model for labelling and the collection of waste.

Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, said a fully circular economy was vital if the EU was to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, preserve its environment and strengthen economic competitiveness.

“Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12% of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy,” he said.

“Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers.”

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