THE CONCEPT OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY

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As result of an aggressive use of resources, we need to leave behind existing linear economic models (extraction of raw materials, processing of products, use, waste landfilling) and adopt new models for a sustainable management. Recycling plays an essential role in ensuring this connection between the initial and the final points of the process by restoring materials into the production process. This dynamics provides circularity for the economy, with consequences such as minimising the use of natural resources, creating business opportunities, optimising costs and creating new jobs.

Europe should transform its economic model from a "take-make-use-dispose" pattern of growth – a linear model that assumes resources are abundant, available and cheap to dispose of – into one that favours reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. By maintaining the value of products and materials for as long as possible and reducing waste, the EU economy can become more competitive and resilient, while, at the same time, relieving pressure on precious resources and the environment.

This is the message behind a new economic package adopted by the Commission in early December 2015. It includes ambitious measures that cover the full life cycle of products, from the design and production phases, through consumption, to better waste management when products reach the end of their useful life. The provisions of the Circular Economy Package adopted in December 2015 by the European Commission includes a series of legislative proposals for reviewing waste directives, raising recycling targets for all streams and aiming to encourage Member States in their transition towards a circular economy that stimulates global competitiveness, strengthens economic growth and creates new jobs.
The Commission's new Circular Economy Package will encourage businesses and consumers to switch to a more circular economic model, where resources are used in smarter way. It aims to generate sustainable growth and create new jobs by addressing a range of different economic sectors.

A transition towards an circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible and waste generation is minimised, is an essential contribution to the EU effort to generate a sustainable economy, with low carbon dioxide emissions, resource efficient and competitive. 

A key element of the new approach is the revised legislative proposal on waste. This covers long-term recycling targets for municipal and packaging waste, measures to limit landfilling, and incentives for Member States to use economic instruments at the national level. It also aims to promote cooperation between industries, with waste from one process becoming secondary materials for others, through a simplified legal framework for by-products and end-of-waste status, creating more certainty for operators in these markets. Other measures promote waste prevention, particularly in relation to food.

Revisiting ecodesign will enable circularity to be built into products from the outset. An investigation will be launched into planned obsolescence, with an independent testing programme to identify and address such practices. A new Ecodesign Work Plan will promote energy efficiency and product recyclability through a range of measures, including new energy efficiency requirements.
The package also includes an action plan to "green" public procurement. Public procurement accounts for almost 20% of EU consumption, so more effective guidelines in this sector could pay major dividends. This is one area where the Commission intends to lead by example.

A strategy for plastics in the circular economy covers action on the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation, and will also reduce marine litter. Actions are planned on food waste, including a common methodology to measure the extent of the problem and define relevant indicators. Measures in other areas extend to industrial and mining waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, the bio-based sector, and a new monitoring framework to measure progress.

The Commission is confident that the more efficient use of resources will create new growth and job opportunities. Studies suggest that better ecodesign, waste prevention and reuse could bring net savings for EU businesses of up to €600 billion per year, while also reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Further measures to increase resource productivity by 30% by 2030 could boost GDP by nearly 1%, while creating two million extra jobs.
Achieving more with less is also a key objective of the EU's Environment Action Programme to 2020.