All 54 actions under the Circular Economy Action Plan, first launched in 2015, have now been delivered, according to the European Commission.
The report, published this week, examines the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan and presents the main results of implementing the action plan and sketches out open challenges to paving the way towards a climate-neutral, competitive circular economy where pressure on natural and freshwater resources as well as ecosystems is minimised.
According to the authors, three years after adoption, the Circular Economy Action Plan can be considered fully completed.
Its 54 actions are said to have been delivered, or being currently implemented. The findings show that implementing the Circular Economy Action Plan has accelerated the transition towards a circular economy in Europe, which in turn has helped putting the EU back on a path of job creation. In 2016, sectors relevant to the circular economy employed more than four million workers, a 6% increase compared to 2012.
Circularity has also opened up new business opportunities, given rise to new business models and developed new markets, domestically and outside the EU.
In 2016, circular activities such as repair, reuse or recycling generated almost €147 billion in value added while accounting for around €17.5 billion worth of investments. Commissioner’s Speech
Speaking at the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, ‘Circular Economy Action Plan, a Framework for the Transition’, in Brussels yesterday, Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “Expectations for the future of the circular economy are constantly rising, not just in Europe, but around the world. So we must be doing something right…
When we launched the Circular Economy Action Plan in 2015, the Communication came with a long list of actions. Fifty-four of them in fact. Taken together, they form a comprehensive framework for change, putting the European Union on the global map as a leader in circularity. Almost without exception, we’ve delivered on all those actions, converting the good intentions into tangible practices on the ground.
“Some of these achievements really are remarkable. Europe now has the most ambitious waste legislation to be found anywhere in the world. It has the highest targets for recycling. And we have a Monitoring Framework to help policymakers identify good practices, and prioritise areas where we need to do more.
“We've also adopted the first European Strategy for Plastics, with a vision for a smart, innovative and sustainable plastics industry. On the business side, plastics recyclers, industry associations and brand owners presented more than 60 voluntary commitments as part of the EU-wide pledging campaign…
“The Plan has fostered a more coherent policy framework for sustainable production and consumption. It’s mainstreamed the concept of circularity here in Europe, pushing it right to the top of the Commission agenda, and it’s highlighted the issue on the global stage. I have taken it quite literally around the world, from Chile to China, and on every continent the response has been extremely positive."
European Environmental Bureau welcomed the report and praised the work done so far by EU officials to boost the transition towards a circular economy. But also said that it is too early to jump to conclusions.
Europe is leading the way on the global transition to a circular economy, where waste is prevented and materials recycled, said the EEB, Europe’s largest network of environmental organisation with around 150 member organisations from more than 30 countries.
The EEB praised unprecedented measures to reduce the environmental impact of products and materials and to empower consumers. Innovation and ambitious recycling targets are also important drivers in the transition.
However, the organisation cautioned that a significant part of the planned measures have suffered from unjustifiable delays, while many others have only been investigated.
“The hesitations of Juncker’s team on the circular economy explain why we haven’t been able to achieve as much as we expected from the circular economy action plan,” said Stephane Arditi, a policy manager for the circular economy with the EEB. “We urge the next European Commission and Parliament to engage with more courage and ambition towards the finalization of the planned actions and the discussion of the next wave of policy and economic initiatives to make the EU more circular, resilient and prosperous.” EU officials working in the European Commission will be replaced at the end of the year, while EU citizens will vote to elect new Members of the European Parliament in May.
Below are some examples of areas where the European Commission could have been more ambitious.
According to the action plan, the Commission was expected to:
• “Examine options and actions for a more coherent policy framework of the different strands of work of EU product policy in their contribution to the circular economy.“ This has so far only resulted in a staff working document, which has not been discussed by EU decision makers and stakeholders even though it was supposed to be implemented in 2018.
• “[develop] Action on false green claims, including updated guidance on unfair commercial practices” by 2016, but there is still confusion over what exactly greenwashing is.
• “ [develop] Analysis and policy options to address the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation, including how to reduce the presence and improve the tracking of chemicals of concern in products.” This was supposed to be finalized by 2017. But we still don’t have clear policy options preventing the proliferation of toxic substances resulting from sub-standard recycling.