'All relevant stakeholders' must contribute to circular economy

In order to remain competitive in the global marketplace, Europe must work towards a circular economy, argues Simona Bonafè.

By Simona Bonafè

20 Nov 2014

With the new commission taking office and the beginning of a new legislative term, we have the opportunity to give fresh impetus to the European project and to focus on growth and employment. We cannot overlook the transition towards an economic system that focuses on sustainable growth, starting with an efficient use of resources. In the coming decade, Europe's commodity market will see a strong increase in its number of global competitors. Many more international competitors will be contending for resources which by definition are limited. We must implement a series of measures and actions to increase efficiency and improve the management of resources throughout their entire lifecycle.

"An important role will be played by citizens who, with their everyday consumer choices and their efforts to separate waste, may affect reduction, selection and subsequent recycling"

On 2 July, the commission presented the 'circular economy package', as part of its requirement to keep in line with the binding objectives identified in the seventh environmental action programme. The package is made up of four communications and a proposal on the revision of European legislation on waste, with particular focus on the definition of new recycling objectives for 2025 and 2030. It is a strategic lever to promote growth, create new jobs and protect the environment in which we live.

Yet the commission cannot go it alone. All relevant stakeholders must contribute in order to obtain results. Manufacturers will have to step up their efforts towards more eco-friendly designs and promote the reuse of products. We need to make efforts on a legislative and administrative level to establish a regulatory framework that is stable, ambitious and economically viable for member states. Finally, an important role will be played by citizens who, with their everyday consumer choices and their efforts to separate waste, may affect reduction, selection and subsequent recycling.

In Europe today, there are around 600 million tonnes of waste which could be reused. Instead, it loses its value and is completely excluded from the production cycle. The main area that needs our continued attention to transform this waste into new resources is the increased productivity rate. Important objectives were achieved following the revision of the waste framework directive in 1998, the first European legislation that opened the doors to a recycling society. In fact, between 2000 and 2011, resource productivity rose by almost two per cent per year. However, if we take into account the period of time up until 2030, without further action this growth rate would slow down to one per cent per year. According to a study carried out by the commission, if the requirement for material productive factors was reduced to between 17 and 24 per cent by 2030, this would result in savings of around €630bn per year for the European industrial sector, as well as a reduction of two to four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

"If the requirement for material productive factors was reduced to between 17 and 24 per cent by 2030, this would result in savings of around €630bn per year for the European industrial sector, as well as a reduction of two to four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions"

The current economic system is centred on a model in which we extract, make, sell, use and throw away. By encouraging reusing and recycling, we can switch to a model in which waste from one industry becomes raw material for another. Strengthening the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy is clearly a win-win for both industrial competitiveness and environmental protection.

The most effective action taken by the commission to accelerate this trend is the legislative proposal to amend the directives on waste, on which I have the honour of being parliament's rapporteur. I closely followed the first exchange of views on the proposal held during the environment council last month. I take a very positive view of sharing both the objective of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and that of increasing recycling rates. At the same time, I am aware of the problematic issues that emerge when it comes to waste management within an extremely diverse European framework. I am confident that in the coming months, we will be able to establish a constructive dialogue between parliament and the council, in order to identify the best way forward towards an invaluable European circular economy.

 

Read the most recent articles written by Simona Bonafè - An industrial scale Green Deal

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