Circular Economy Package must be holistic – WRAP

WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has given its response to the European Commission’s (EC) Circular Economy Package consultation, highlighting three priorities for the upcoming legislation.

As part of the process for creating an ‘ambitious’ new approach to the circular economy in Europe, the EC opened a public consultation, which closed on 20 August. The responses will now be assessed and used to create the revised Circular Economy Package action plan, which is due to be presented before the end of 2015.

In its response to the consultation, WRAP focused on three priorities, namely ‘the need for an EU Vision, based on whole-systems thinking’, ‘the need for an EU-wide action on food, including food waste’ and ‘the need for EU action to encourage greater use of Resource Efficient Business Models (REBMs)’.

EU Vision

The EC originally announced plans for the Circular Economy Package in 2014. It withdrew the plan, however, in December, saying that it wanted to rework the bid to include ‘more ambitious’ proposals.

WRAP says that this ambition must be formed around a vision of what Europe could be like in 2025, ‘based on a holistic, whole-systems thinking approach’.

This vision should, it says, ‘paint a picture of what we expect to be normal practice by 2025’. This incudes collaboration to address systemic issues in supply chains, the design of products to promote durability, reparability and recyclability and all member states phasing out the disposal of recyclable materials.

WRAP’s own EU Vision 2020, published last year, predicted that if the EU moved to a more circular economy it could realise a number of environmental and economic benefits, including €400 billion (£294 billion) cost savings, 160,000 jobs created and 220 million tonnes less waste produced.

The response, submitted by WRAP Chief Executive Liz Goodwin, reads: ‘[H]aving a clear EU-wide vision in place would enable the revised circular economy package to focus on the most important issues and to propose actions that are congruent to the scale of the challenges…

‘The vision should also be based on a holistic, whole-systems thinking approach which allows the most effective actions to be identified at the right point in a product life cycle.’

EU-wide action on food

The commission, WRAP says, should be guided about the scale of the problem when deciding which products and materials to address.

To this end, it suggests that food and food waste should be a key priority for the package, due to the 100 million tonnes of waste the EC itself estimates is produced in Europe per year. 

According to an EC paper cited by WRAP, this waste could account for 3-5 per cent of total global warming impacts, more than 20 per cent of biodiversity pressure and close to 30 per cent of all the world’s agricultural land.

WRAP suggests that the package encourages each member state to:

  • develop an accurate measurement of the current food waste arisings;
  • focus on food waste prevention actions; and
  • recognise the holistic nature of the problem, and the need for action from all sectors of society, including government, business and consumers.

A movement to include a measure requiring supermarkets to donate unsold edible food to charities has already been presented to the European Parliament by French MEP Angélique Delahaye. The proposal was passed by MEPs, and will be considered for inclusion in the package. A similar law was close to being passed in France last month before being withdrawn for ‘procedural reasons’, though supermarkets have since signed a voluntary agreement to redistribute unsold food.

Resource-efficient business models

The WRAP response states that ‘REBMs extract greater value from products by using them more intensively, extending their lifetime or enabling them to be reused’.

Although it notes that it is member states rather than the EC that can control the use of REBMs, WRAP says the commission has a role to play in encouraging the transition to REBMs and incentivising such business models.

Read the executive summary of PDF icon WRAP's response to the Circular Economy Package consulation.

Related Articles