Government

European circular economy making ‘good progress’

European Commission (EC) First Vice President Frans Timmermans has said “good progress” is being made on developing a circular economy in Europe while announcing a new finance support platform for circular projects.

The announcement came as the EC reported on progress of the action plan created as part of the Circular Economy Package (CEP), a year after it was published.

European circular economy making ‘good progress’
Frans Timmermans updates progress on the Circular Economy Action Plan
When the EC published the package in December 2015, it included a range of legislative proposals, which have been discussed in the European Council and Parliament over the past year ahead of final negotiations later in 2017, and an action plan of measures to undertake by the end of the Juncker commission in 2019.

Timmermans, who is responsible in the EC for sustainable development, said: “Building a circular economy for Europe is a key priority for this commission. We have made good progress and are planning new initiatives in 2017. We are closing the loop of design, production, consumption, and waste management, thereby creating a green, circular and competitive Europe.”

Ticked off the list

An Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019 was adopted by the EC in November, focusing on product groups ‘with the highest potential in terms of energy and resource savings’. The plan extended eco-design measures to a wider range of products, but campaigners noted that everyday devices such as smartphones, toasters and hair dryers were left off the list.

Other recent actions include: the creation of an EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, which Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in November called a “turning point” in “that absurd unethical and anti-economic situation which we call food waste”; legislative proposals to help create a market for fertilisers made from secondary raw materials; and a €650-million (£550 million) investment in 2016 and 2017 to finance demonstration projects for the circular economy as part of the Horizon 2020 funding programme.

Guidance has also been created on integrating the circular economy into best practice documents for a number of industrial sectors and on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, addressing unclear and ambiguous information, including claims related to the circular economy.

Rounding off actions carried out by the EC are legislative proposals strengthening guarantees for consumers against defective goods bought online, a new tool on waste codes for customs officials to identify waste crossing EU borders illegally as non-waste and an industry-wide Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol to improve identification, separation at source and collection of waste.

What next?

Looking ahead to 2017, the EC set out a number of priorities, including the presentation of a strategy for plastics in the circular economy, an assessment of options for the improved interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation and a monitoring framework on the circular economy.

The strategy for plastics, it says, will ‘improve the economics, quality and low rate of plastic recycling and reuse’, and address the ‘significant leakage of plastics into the environment, in particular the oceans, and the high dependence on fossil fuel as feedstock’ (more than 90 per cent of plastics are still produced from fossil-fuel feedstock).

Meanwhile, the circular economy monitoring framework will assess progress towards a circular economy at EU and national level, building on existing scoreboards on resource efficiency and raw materials. The EC also says the framework will be aligned with the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Commission and EIB partnering to boost awareness of circular projects

Alongside the update on the action plan, the EC has also today (26 January) established a Circular Economy Finance Support Platform alongside the European Investment Bank to ‘enhance the link between existing instruments and look at developing new funding instruments for circular projects’.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “I am pleased that we can again work with the EIB to match investors with innovators. Our goal is to upscale investment, both public and private, in the circular economy. This new platform is an excellent tool to raise awareness of the circular economy projects’ immense business potential and, consequently, draw in more funding for their financing.”

EIB Vice President Jonathan Taylor added: “As the world’s largest multilateral climate action lender with over €19 billion [£16 billion] of dedicated financing last year, we see the circular economy as key to reversing the course of climate change, making more sustainable use of our planet’s scarce resources, and contributing to Europe's growth.

“To accelerate this transition, we will continue to advise and invest increasingly in innovative circular business models and new technologies as well as in more traditional resource-efficiency projects. The new Circular Economy Finance Support Platform will be an essential tool to boost awareness and financing of circular economy projects.”

The European Commission’s implementation report can be read and downloaded from the EC’s website.

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