European Environment Agency: “It´s time to speed up the circular economy in Europe”

Despite legislative advances over the past five years, efforts to transform the European economy – largely linear and “disposable” – into a circular economy will require bolder actions. It is essential to take decisive steps to drastically reduce waste, prioritize resource use reduction, increase recycling rates, and improve the circular design of products, according to an assessment of the circular economy situation in Europe just published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The European Union’s circular economy policies have been strengthened in recent years, but they still need to become more binding and goal-oriented to accelerate the adoption of a more regenerative model. This means going beyond the current focus on waste to more directly address resource use. The report explains the benefits of possibly setting future targets on resource use or material footprint and potential pathways to accelerate the transition to a more circular model.

Developing a circular economy is a crucial part of the EU’s efforts to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The EEA report offers a comprehensive analysis of how the EU is faring in the transition to a more circular economy and the strong political momentum it receives from the EU Green Deal, along with alternatives and proposals to further accelerate it. It also sets that EU industrial policy strategy calls for twin green and digital transitions that will require new technologies, with matching investment and innovation to create new products, services, markets and business models.

The report explains, however, that many circular economy policies are still relatively new and some have not yet been fully implemented at the national level. Additionally, the impact of these measures takes time to filter through to changes in business models, consumption patterns, and ultimately our resource use patterns. However, besides implementing existing policies, more can be done.

Actions for increased circularity (Source: EEA)

  • Setting targets and promoting higher quality recycling to foster EU resource independence and reduce imports.
  • Applying eco-design principles, it is also essential to increase circularity by maximizing the use and lifespan of products through reuse, repair, and remanufacturing.
  • Pay attention to the raw material supply economy, so that incentives and prices of raw materials take into account their environmental impact.
  • Continue awareness raising, education, financing and building skills for a circular economy.

Therefore, this report underscores the critical importance of advancing understanding of both the circular and digital transitions, in line with the goals of the TwinRevolution project. It represents one of the pioneering freely accessible training courses for manufacturing industries, detailing strategies for promoting circular transition through the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Link to the report here.