New EU circular package: Smart regulation blended with market-based instruments

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Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (Foto: EU Commission)

Brussels — The Commission’s circular economy package was central issue of the speech of Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the 2015 European Circular Economy Conference. He stated that a circular economy is a good idea, but at the moment Europe still locked into a linear production chain that is resource intensive. He demanded an industrial system to behave much more like an eco-system. In an eco-system, the waste of one species is the resource to another. A recalibration so that the output of one industry becomes automatically the input of another should be undertaken.

Addressing specifically the Commission’s circular economy package, Vella argued: „The Commission is aiming to present a new, more ambitious circular economy package late in 2015, to transform Europe into a more competitive resource-efficient economy, addressing a range of economic sectors in addition to waste. The decision to withdraw the waste legislative proposal was based on the need to better align it with the priorities of the new Commission. The Commission has decided to undertake a thorough reflection on how the objective of circular economy can be reached in a more efficient way that is fully compatible with the jobs and growth agenda.

„Continuously advancing waste management remains a priority of course, through incentives and support for waste reduction as well as high-quality separation and collection systems. The latter ensure that resources stay within the circle and are available for future use.

Competitiveness potential is not exploited

„Waste is not managed as well as it could be. In 2012 total waste production in the EU amounted to 2,5 billion tons, an average of 5 tons per inhabitant and per year. From this total only a limited share of 36 percent was effectively recycled. The largest share, 37percent, was simply sent for disposal whether in landfills or on lands. In other words, around 1620 million tons of waste was lost for the EU economy. Losing this material means that significant growth and competitiveness potential is not being exploited through the development of a reuse/ recycling industry in the EU.

„Getting maximum value from resources requires action at all stages of the life cycle of products. There needs to be circular economy processes reflected from the extraction of raw material to the product design, production and production of goods and through an increasing use of secondary raw-materials. Products that last longer, have a longer warranty, or come with repair manuals and spare parts would help in this sense. The distribution and consumption of goods must be part of that process.

„The Commission, when re-tabling the package, will include a new legislative proposal on waste targets, taking into account the input already given to us during public consultations, and by Council and in Parliament, in particular the comments made by many that the previous waste proposal needed to be more country-specific.

An expanding global market

„But let us remember one thing. The Circular Economy transformation on the scale we have in mind will never come about simply as a result of legislation. We need a combined approach, where smart regulation is blended with market-based instruments, innovation and incentives. These would provide businesses, including SMEs, with concrete tools and instruments and incentives to promote the transition to a circular economy.

„There is also an expanding global market for green industries, offering substantial export potential. And that is the policy line we need to follow in the future. Recent estimates show how increasing resource productivity by 30 percent by 2030 could boost GDP by nearly 1 percent, while creating over two million jobs more than under a business as usual scenario. Waste prevention, eco-design, reuse and similar measures could bring net savings of € 600 billion, or 8 percent of annual turnover, for businesses in the EU, while reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4 percent.

The new approach is two-fold

According to Karmenu Vella, the new approach is two-fold: „First, we will of course present a new legislative proposal on waste targets. This new proposal will use the expert knowledge already gained to be more country sensitive. I want to assure you that we will keep our EU wide goals on recycling levels Our success will be measured by how well policies are implemented on the ground. So we will have to set smart, realistic objectives and focus on implementation.

„Second, to close that circle, we will prepare a roadmap for further action on the circular economy. It will consider two aspects: Upstream, in the production and use phase, before products become waste; and downstream, after products are no longer waste, looking at what can be done to encourage and develop a market for the recycled products. The work on this half of the circle will take the form of a roadmap where we identify what can be done rapidly, and what we should propose at a later stage.

„Both these aspects – the waste targets review and the roadmap – will come together before the end of this year. I hope you will agree with me that this is quite a broad and ambitious programme.“

The full speech can be found under europa.eu.

Source: EU Commission