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European Commission produces much-anticipated circular economy package

The European Commission yesterday (Wednesday 2nd December) issued a revised version of its Circular Economy Package, after the initial version was withdrawn at the end of last year with commissioners promising to make it “more ambitious”.

The newly-announced package, dubbed ‘closing the loop’ is aimed at benefitting both the environment and the economy and contains common EU recycling targets of 65% municipal waste by 2030 and plans to develop quality standards for secondary raw materials, revised regulation on fertilisers to boost bio-organics and a Europe-wide strategy for plastics as well as actions to reduce food waste.

A statement from the commission promised:

"This is a new, more comprehensive and ambitious plan that Commissioners are presenting. The agenda is essential for our economy, for jobs in the future, for our environment - for sustainability on all levels.

“The future is not in low-wage production, the future is not in making things with finite components. The future is providing services to the citizens in a long-term process. Services that then materialize in products, instead of the other way around, and products that are used and re-used time and time again, so that you reduce the use of raw materials and don't deplete the earth's natural resources.

“The Circular Economy, if designed right, can enable economic, environmental and social gains - a triple win! It is estimated that it will create almost 500.000 new jobs and increased annual turnover by over €4 billion, in the waste sector alone."

Announcing the new package, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said:

"Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the 'take, make, use and throw away' approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them. The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works. 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. It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation."

It is underpinned by funding of over €650 million from Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion via European structural funds.

The package was generally welcomed by the Scottish Government.

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment said:

“Scotland is leading the drive towards a more circular economy, and I am pleased that the package gives a nod to a number of Scottish priorities – such as our legislation on landfill bans, an increased focus on producer responsibility and the importance of design for a circular economy. 

“While I would have preferred to see a greater level of ambition, on food waste in particular, I look forward to working with the EU to implement the package.”

The Commission has produced a video about the package, which you can see here: 

If you’ve got more questions, the Commission has produced a fact sheet which is available here http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-6204_en.htm

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