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European Commission: Circular economy package report

European Commission: Circular economy package report

Articles

What is the Circular Economy?

To ensure sustainable growth for the EU we have to use our resources in a smarter, more sustainable way. It is clear that the linear model of economic growth we relied on in the past is no longer suited for the needs of today's modern societies in a globalised world. We cannot build our future on a 'take-make-dispose' model. Many natural resources are finite, we must find an environmentally and economically sustainable way of using them.

In a circular economy the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimised, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value. This model can create secure jobs in Europe and promote innovation that give a competitive advantage. It can also provide consumers with more durable and innovative products that provide monetary savings and an increased quality of life.

What was in the Commission's Circular Economy Package?

To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, in December 2015 the Commission put forward a first Circular Economy Package, which included revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Circular Economy Action Plan setting out a concrete mandate for this Commission's term of office.

The Action Plan on the Circular Economy set out measures to "close the loop" of the circular economy and tackle all phases in the lifecycle of a product: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The Action Plan also included a number of actions that will target market barriers or boost circularity in specific sectors or material streams, such as plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and bio-based products, as well as horizontal measures in areas such as innovation and investment.

In 2018, this first set of measures was complemented by the second Circular Economy Package, including the EU Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy, Monitoring Framework of Indicators for the Circular Economy, a Communication on the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation. The Commission also made a proposal for a Directive addressing single-use plastics and fishing gear – the two most important sources of European plastic marine litter.

What has been done to address specific challenges in the plastics industry? What about marine litter?

The EU Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy is the first EU-wide policy framework adopting a material-specific lifecycle approach to integrate circular design, use, reuse and recycling activities into plastics value chains. As such, it is a catalyser for action. The Strategy sets out a clear vision with quantified objectives at EU level, so that inter alia by 2030 all plastic packaging placed on the EU market is reusable or recyclable.

The recently established Circular Plastics Alliance will facilitate next steps by businesses to bridge the current gap between the supply and demand for recycled plastics, improve the quality and economics of plastics recycling and thus achieve the EU target that 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics find their way into products in Europe by 2025. In response to the call from the Commission, 70 companies and business organisations submitted voluntary pledges to produce or use more recycled plastics by 2025. The pledges submitted by industry so far will increase the market for recycled plastics by at least 60% by 2025, but further efforts are necessary to ensure the 10 million tonnes target is reached.

Key milestones were already delivered to achieve higher quality recycling of plastics. These include the new recycling target for plastic packaging, set at 55% in 2030, obligations for separate collection and improvements in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes. The latter are expected to facilitate design for recyclability through 'eco-modulation' of producers' fees.

Evidence of potential health and environmental risks of microplastic pollution justifies restricting the use of intentionally added microplastics. The Commission has requested ECHA to prepare an opinion on microplastics intentionally added to products, which once ready the Commission will analyse.

The rules on Single-Use Plastics items and fishing gear, addressing the ten most found items in EU beaches, on port reception facilities, and the Commission's proposals on fisheries control, place the EU at the forefront of the global fight against marine litter - one of the major concerns of EU citizens when it comes to plastic pollution.

These sets of tailored measures, undergoing final steps of the legislative procedure, include:

  • A ban on selected single-use products made of plastic (cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons), cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of of oxo-degradable plastic.
  • Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products.
  • A target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030, as well as a 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% bottles by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.

Measures aimed at reducing plastic litter from ships such as the establishment of a flat fee for waste from ships. Improved reporting obligations for lost fishing gear and obligations for marking and control of fishing gear for recreational fisheries.

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