In a world of scare resources and environmental challenges, the European Union aspires to find an alternative to its current industrial “take-make-consume-dispose” model. The Circular Economy, an industrial model based on the production of durable goods that can be recycled, is presented as an opportunity to give a second life to used materials that are discarded as waste.
The former Barroso Commission – named after its President – presented a first Circular Economy proposal to transform the European economy in September 2014. This reform package tackled the review of the European waste legislation and investigated the impact of the Circular Economy on fields such as the building sector, the labour market or European Small and Medium Enterprises.
The newly appointed Juncker Commission decided to withdraw this first proposal for waste legislation in January 2015. This decision provoked the disappointment of the European Parliament and the EU environment Ministers. Industry associations, NGOs and municipalities also voiced their complaints.
First Vice-President for Better Regulation Frans Timmermans estimated that this first package was not ambitious enough. He stated that the European Commission “wanted to put something on the table that was more ambitious” and that would “boost” the European economy. Consequently, the European Commission has been working on a second Circular Economy package with a more holistic approach on what can be done “for circular economy in addition to waste”.
The Conference Closing the loop – Circular Economy: Boosting business, Reducing waste held on June 26th 2015 set the pace for the Institution’s efforts. Stakeholders were decisive on the need of “closing the Circular Economy loop”. European industries were encouraged to take part in the public consultation launched May 28th 2015 to gather views on this new and broader approach.
European stakeholders are eager to discover the final content of the new Circular Economy Strategy, which should be presented by the European Commission by the end of 2015. This Strategy should not only review waste regulations but create a marketplace for secondary raw materials, introduce new environmental labelling, and strengthen ecodesign to support the engineering of products that can be repaired, re-used, remanufactured and recycled.
It is unclear which financing programs will be dedicated to the implementation of this Strategy. Declarations made by top EU representatives seem to point in the direction of the Juncker Investment Plan and its European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI).
Re-use, repair, refurbish and recycle, these are the key words on the future European Circular Economy, which has the power of bringing new growth and job opportunities. Let’s close the circle and make the most of the European resources.
By Inmaculada Rincón Liévana.