Circular economy ‘an effective climate strategy’, new study shows

Recycling two-thirds of municipal solid waste (MSW) can reduce annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by six per cent, new research from the Netherlands reveals.

According to ‘The Circular economy: a key instrument for CO2 reduction’, commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging (KIDV), by shifting to a more circular economy the European Union’s (EU) GHG emissions could annually be reduced by four per cent.

The report states that ‘in the climate policies of the EU no reference is made to circular economy policies as a means to reduce European GHG emissions’, adding that the policies focus primarily on energy and transport.

However, the study, conducted by the Dutch research institute CE Delft, shows that the circular economy can, in many cases, be seen as an effective climate strategy. The circular economy package ‘Closing the loop’, adopted by the European Commission in 2016, offers a possibility to combine both circular economy policy and climate policy.

Composition of Municipal Solid Waste
Composition of Municipal Solid Waste

The strategies focus on MSW, which makes up 10 per cent of all waste generated. Therefore the potential reduction of GHGs could be much higher if other waste fractions were also taken into account.

At the COP21 Circular Economy and Climate Change event in Paris, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment said: “A circular economy will bring benefits for society, benefits for climate and greater benefits for business.

“Europe will enjoy emission reductions of between two and four per cent if the waste legislation we are proposing is implemented in full by Member States.

“The long-term binding EU targets to recycle 65 per cent or more of our waste by 2030, and to reduce landfilling – still far too prevalent in some parts of the EU – to below 10 per cent will also result in emissions cuts through energy saving.”

Circular Economy Action Plan

Environment ministers from across the EU are meeting today (20 June) to have their say on the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). Among the measures to approve for the plan is the need to stimulate the secondary raw materials market.

The document calls on the commission to develop uniform end-of-waste criteria where appropriate, and to promote international quality standards for secondary raw materials.

More information and a PDF download of the full report (in English or Dutch) is available at the KIDV website.