Roadmap to a Circular Economy in Europe

circular economy, linear, reuse, recycle, remanufacture, value, carbon, materials, framework, legislation

Step by step the economy is changing from a linear to a circular process

We are running out of our resources: fossils, precious metals and even water. Our demand for resources keeps on growing. We are reaching the planet exceeds.

And now the good news: We know what the problems are. And we know how to solve it… Resource efficiency!

Let’s go circular.

What’s going on

  1. Currently, the global economy uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets worth of resources (estimated to reach 2 planets by 2030).
  2. The annual consumption of minerals, fossil fuels and biomass is projected to double by 2050, reaching 140 million tonnes.
  3. Europe is more dependent on imported resources than any other region in the world: 40% of all materials used in the EU is imported, and for some strategic resources, the percentage is even higher.
circular economy, linear, recycle, reuse, remanufacture, refurbish, landfill, bio, eco

Improving resource efficiency would be accompanied by better societal outcomes including an increase of €3,000 in household income, and 50% of carbon dioxide emissions compare with current levels (McKinsey, 2015)

Improving resource efficiency would benefit our economy

  • Increasing resource productivity by 30% by 2030 could boost GDP by nearly 1% and create 2 million additional jobs
  • Improving resource use through better design requirements, and through waste legislation, could bring substantial net savings for EU businesses, public authorities and consumers, estimated at € 600 billion, or 8% of annual turnover, while also reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2 – 4%
  • Adopting new waste targets would create 180,000 jobs
  • Circular economy allows Europe to grow resource productivity by up to 3% annually: generates a primary resource benefit of € 0.6 trillion/year! by 2030 and additional €1.2 trillion versus today (McKinsey, 2015)
  • This would be accompanied by better societal outcomes including an increase of €3,000 in household income, and a halving of carbon dioxide emissions compare with current levels (McKinsey, 2015)
circular economy, cascading materials, minerals, eco design, landfills

Cascading keeps materials in circulation for a longer period of time

From linear to circular

A linear economy like we have today is a dead end. We will have a lack on minerals and too much CO2. But how can Europe (and the rest of the world) change to a circular economy. What we need is a paradigm shift based on a framework including these 6 core concepts:

  1. circular economy
  2. cascading use of resources
  3. waste hierarchy
  4. extended producer responsibility
  5. industrial symbioses
  6. new business models

Nowadays, financial and economic legislation fails to incorporate the value of ecosystem services and biodiversity and to take ecological and social risks into account.

carpet, sustainable, recycling, reuse, fishing nets

Beautiful carpet from old Filippines plastic fishing nets

Targets 2015 – 2030 and 2050

  • By 2015 a lead indicator and a dashboard of sub-indicators on resource efficiency, including ecosystem services the use of which should be legally binding as of 2018
  • Indicators based on footprint methodology and measure at least land, water and material use and carbon
  • Measuring on all levels: EU, member states and industry level, and take both imports and exports and the whole lifecycle of products and services into account
  • The indicators should be included in the EU semester and impact assessments
  • Binding target of increasing resource efficiency at EU level by 30% (compared to 2014 levels) by 2030
  • By 2050 EU’s use of resources need to be sustainable!
CO2, Climate Change, renewables, Barcelona, bridge, greenhouse gas

ECODESIGN products are flexible, reliable, durable, adaptable, modular, dematerialized and reusable. In addition to proving economical reasonability and social compatibility, these products represent an ecological necessity

Product policy and ecodesign

  1. By the end of 2016, a review of the ecodesign legislation and other relevant product policy legislation should be ready
  2. Broadening the scope of the directive to cover all main product lines
  3. Gradually including all relevant resource-efficiency features in the mandatory requirements for product design
  4. Introducing a mandatory product passport based on these requirements
  5. Defining and setting horizontal requirements on inter alia, durability, repairability, reusability and recyclability
  6. Products’ parts containing hazardous substances should be clearly identified in product manuals to facilitate separation of those parts prior to recycling
  7. The extension of minimum guarantees for consumer durable goods
  8. Appropriate measures on the availability of spare parts to ensure the reparability of products during their lifetime
  9. The importance of effective market surveillance: member states to advance in the legislative procedure on the review of the market surveillance regulation without delay

And what about a waste framework

  • Full implementation of waste hierarchy, with the emphasis on first step: waste prevention
  • Review of waste legislation by the end of 2015
  • By 2025, binding waste reduction targets for municipal, commercial and industrial waste
  • Clear minimum standards for extended producer responsibility requirements
  • Mandatory separate collection schemes for paper, metal, plastic and glass
  • Introducing mandatory separate collection for biowaste by 2020
  • e-waste, recycle, reuse, art

    Ready for some gold digging? Don’t treat waste only as waste. Michael Jordan’s art is famous. All from e-waste

    Increasing recycling and preparation for reuse targets to at least 70% of municipal solid waste and 80% recycling of packaging waste by 2030, based on a solid reporting method preventing the reporting of discarded waste (landfilled or incinerated) as recycled waste

  • An obligation for recyclers to report on the ‘input’ quantities of waste going into the sorting plant as well as on the ‘output’ quantities of waste going into the sorting plants
  • Strictly limiting incineration by 2020, to non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste
  • Binding, gradual reduction of all landfilling, implemented in 3 stages (2020, 2025 and 2030), leading to a ban on all landfilling, except for certain hazardous waste and residual waste for which landfilling is the most environmentally sound option
  • Fees on landfilling and incineration
  • A regulatory framework for landfill mining in existing landfills, including a permit system
  • 50% marine litter reduction target by 2025
  • Setting a binding food waste reduction target in the manufacturing, retail/distribution, food service/hospitality sectors and the households sector of at least 30% by 2025
  • A communication on sustainable food by 2016 and increasing the use of environmentally friendly food package
Green energy, solar power, pope, vatican

The world is happy with this ‘Green’ Pope


Buildings represent 40% of the energy use, and 3% of the CO2 emissions. That is why a special focus on the resource efficiency of the build environment and buildings is needed. What we need are sustainable buildings:

  1. Developing indicators, standards, methods and quality requirements as regards land use and urban planning, architecture, structural engineering, construction, maintenance, adaptability, energy efficiency, renovation and reuse and recycling
  2. Green infrastructure, such as green roofs
  3. Development of indicators to assess the sustainability of buildings over their entire lifecycle
  4. BAT principles and standards be applied to all materials and parts of buildings
  5. Building passport based ont he whole lifecycle of a building
  6. Special requirements and incentives set for the renovation sector in order to have mainly energy-positive buildings by 2050

More Measures

  • Compulsory green public procurement
  • A policy framework on nutrients
  • Establish a permanent resource-efficiency platform
  • Cross-sectorial, inter-DG sustainable financing working group
  • All EU funding must be mobilized to promote resource efficiency
  • Phase out all environmentally harmful subsidies
  • A review on existing and envisaged legislation to see if it is hindering resource efficient solutions, existing innovative business models or emergence of new business models


Have you seen this?

Circular economy: cheaper resources, more jobs (dossier)

Industries: models for decision makers (dossier)

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