The European Union’s 2050 circular economy plan and additional measures the Parliament is proposing to reduce waste and extend product life.

If we continue to use resources the way we are used to, by 2050 we will need the resources of three planets like Earth. The scarcity of raw materials and climate problems require a shift from a society that uses and throws to a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, polluting economy.

The current coronavirus crisis highlights the weakness of supply chains and affects small businesses and industry. The development of a circular economy in which resources and products are used for a long time and recycled will reduce carbon emissions, stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities.

The EU Circular Economy Action Plan

In March 2020, the European Commission proposed a new action plan for the circular economy. It is in line with the goal of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050 and focuses on waste prevention and management.

The Parliamentary Committee on the Environment endorsed the plan on 27 January and called for binding targets for the use and consumption of materials by 2030. The report will be put to a plenary vote in plenary in February.

Transition to sustainable products

The European Union wants to build a market for environmentally sustainable products whose production and consumption do not require carbon emissions and waste of materials. The Commission is therefore proposing to extend the scope of the Ecodesign Directive, which currently focuses on the energy consumption of products. MEPs want the new rules to be adopted in 2021.

Parliament also supports initiatives to combat planned obsolescence of products, to improve their durability and repairability. MEPs insist that consumers must have the necessary information about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy. In addition, Parliament is asking the Commission for proposals to combat unsubstantiated claims by companies that they are protecting the environment.

Initiatives in key sectors

The European Commission has identified seven key sectors for building the circular economy. They need changes at different stages of the chain – from design through production to their use by end users.

  1. Plastic

Parliament supports the European strategy for plastics in the circular economy, which aims to phase out plastic products.

  1. Textile

The production of fabrics and clothing requires a lot of raw materials and water, with less than 1% of clothes being recycled. MEPs want measures to pollute the oceans with microfiber and stricter water use requirements.

  1. Electronics and information technology

Electrical and electronic waste is the fastest growing group of waste in the EU and less than 40% of products are recycled. Parliament is in favor of extending the life of products by improving repair options.

  1. Food, water and nutrients

About 20% of food produced in the EU is wasted or wasted. The new EU strategy “From farm to fork” should help reduce this share twice by 2030.

  1. Packaging

Packaging waste reached a record in Europe in 2017. New rules aim for all packaging on the EU market to be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

  1. Batteries and vehicles

Parliament is working on rules that will impose obligations on all batteries on the EU market to have a low carbon footprint and to respect human rights, social and environmental standards in their production.

  1. Construction and buildings

Construction is responsible for over 35% of total waste in the EU. Parliament wants to increase the life of buildings, introduce targets for a lower carbon footprint of materials and minimum requirements for resource and energy efficiency.

Waste management and transportation

The European Union generates more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste a year, most of it municipal waste. MEPs are pushing for EU countries to increase quality recycling, reduce waste incineration and dump landfills.

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