Make circular economy virtuous

Last week the EU published its plan to transform the continent from being a “take, make, use and throw away” society to one that fosters “durability, reparability, recyclability and upgradeability”.

Publishing the report, Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach.

“By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs. With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen.”

But what’s in the plan, what does it mean to you and has it gone far enough?

The Commission says that waste prevention, eco-design, re-use and similar measures could bring net savings for EU businesses of €600bn, or 8% of annual turnover, while reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4 %.

However, a number of anticipated targets have been either scrapped altogether or reduced. The expected EU recycling target has been downgraded from a legally binding 70% figure, to a target of 65% by 2030. Likewise a binding total ban on landfill has been replaced by a 10% target by 2030.

What about food waste? The European Parliament had called for a 30% cut by 2025. Guess what? That target has disappeared. In its place a proposal to “support the achievement of the (global) food waste reduction target under the UN sustainable development goals through appropriate steps, the involvement of stakeholders, the sharing of valuable and successful innovation and relevant benchmarking.”

One size fits all?

While this may sound vague it is based on some common sense and an understanding that the causes of food waste are different in each member state and a one size fits all policy might well be counter-productive.

The new proposals include several measures to reduce food waste, including the creation of common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and ‘tools’ to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal.

They also call for measures to facilitate the redistribution of safe, edible food to people in need and, the use of food waste as a resource for animal feed – all encouraging, progressive steps.

Dr Liz Goodwin CEO of WRAP, responded to the report with cautious optimism. She said that whether the Commission would be able to use the Circular Economy Package to set the direction and vision for Europe for the next decade, remained to be seen. She added: “But let’s also be clear that whilst it is an important framework, it is not and should not be the panacea. If we want to maximise opportunities for a circular economy then we all have a role to play: governments, industry and businesses.” There’s a call to action that we would support to you, our Members, to embrace the philosophy of the circular economy and reap the benefits.

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