The Rationale

In December 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious “Circular Economy Package” to encourage EU Member States, their regions and municipalities and private sector to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy which will boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.

The Package includes revised legislative proposals on waste management and an “Action Plan for the circular economy” establishing a concrete and ambitious programme of actions.

The revised legislative proposals on waste set clear targets for reduction of waste and establish an ambitious long term path for waste management and recycling, including:

  • A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030;
  • A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
  • Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
  • Simplified and improved definitions and harmonised calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
  • Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis – turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material;
  • Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (eg for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipments, vehicles).

The Action Plan establishes concrete  measures and their timeline, covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

The Circular economy model offers an opportunity to reinvent the economy, making it more sustainable and competitive, by cutting resource use or extending products lifetime, reducing waste and boosting recycling.

This new model is not an option, but represent a “must” for the whole EU community, requiring a long term transition and a close cooperation between all actors involved in the product life cycle as designers, producers, retailers, consumers and public authorities. Therefore, the circular approach will be successful if supported at all levels, with innovation in research, financing and regulation, enabling environment, new business models and multi-stakeholder involvement.

In particular, SME’s – representing 99% of all enterprises in the EU and the main driver of innovation – can play a relevant role in this new approach. Key elements to ensure their participation to this transition, are: a SME friendly legislative framework, technical assistance at local level, improved access to finance, capacity building for SME organizations, and the upgrading of employees’ skills.

The added-value of this new package is the close synergy between environment, business and social agenda, since a sustainable and efficient supply, processing and using of raw materials for the European industry and society as a whole, will address other key EU priorities as climate and energy, jobs and growth, investment, innovation, social, industrial competitiveness.