New circular economy action plan

In “A European Green Deal”

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Under the European Green Deal, the Commission announced the adoption of a new EU industrial strategy by the end of March 2020, along with a new circular economy action plan including a sustainable products initiative to support the circular design of products, and particular focus on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics. Measures envisaged in the plan include setting minimum requirements to prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed on the EU market; introducing an electronic product passport with information on composition, repair and dismantling possibilities; proposing further legislation and guidance on green public purchasing; new legislation, including targets and measures for tackling over-packaging and waste generation; considering legal requirements to boost the market of secondary raw materials with mandatory recycled content (for packaging, vehicles, construction materials and batteries); proposing an EU model for separate waste collection; revisiting rules on waste shipments and illegal exports.

The announced 'New Circular Economy Action Plan, for a cleaner and more competitive Europe' was presented on 11 March 2020. Building on the actions implemented since 2015 (when the first Circular Economy Action Plan was introduced), it is based on the following main strands:

  • the progressive roll-out of a sustainable product policy framework, with actions on three main building blocks: (1) product design (2) empowering consumers and public buyers and (3) greater circularity in production processes. The Commission intended, inter alia, to propose a legislative initiative to widen the Ecodesign Directive beyond energy-related products, and to establish sustainability principles;
  • a focus on key value chains, with actions on electronics and ICT; batteries and vehicles; packaging; plastics; textiles; construction and buildings; and food. Measures foreseen include a 'Circular Electronics Initiative'; a review of the Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment; a proposal for a new regulatory framework for batteries; a review of the rules on end-of-life vehicles; mandatory requirements on recycled plastic content and plastic waste reduction measures for packaging, construction materials and vehicles; a policy framework for bio-based plastics and biodegradable or compostable plastics; an EU Strategy for Textiles; a Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment; and an Initiative to substitute single-use packaging, tableware and cutlery by reusable products in food services, among others;
  • initiatives to ensure 'less waste, more value', with actions to support waste prevention and circularity, address the issue of hazardous substances, create a well-functioning EU market for secondary raw materials, and address waste exports from the EU (with a revision of the rules on waste shipment);
  • cross-cutting actions in the fields of economics, research and innovation;
  • the promotion of the circular economy at international level;
  • an update of the existing monitoring framework for the circular economy.

On 17 December 2020, the Council adopted conclusions on 'Making the Recovery Circular and Green', providing political guidance on the actions foreseen in the New Circular Economy Action Plan.

In a resolution of February 2021, Parliament welcomed the Commission’s New Circular Economy Action Plan and made over 130 policy recommendations for more circularity. It called, among other things, on the Commission to propose science-based binding EU mid-term and long-term targets for reducing the use of primary raw materials and environmental impacts. It also demanded binding material and environmental footprint targets for the whole product lifecycle for each product category placed on the EU market; and product-specific and/or sector-specific binding targets for recycled content.

In March 2022, the Commission presented a first package of proposals to promote a more circular economy. It included a proposal for a regulation on ecodesign for sustainable products, an EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, and a proposed directive on empowering consumers in the green transition.

In November 2022, the Commission published a second package, including a proposal for a revision of the EU legislation on packaging and packaging waste, an EU policy framework on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics, and a proposal for a regulation on EU certification for carbon removals.

In March 2023, the Commission presented a third package, including a proposal for a directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims ('green claims directive') and a proposal for a directive on common rules promoting the repair of goods (see dedicated carriages to follow up all those files). 

In May 2023, the Commission published a revised circular economy monitoring framework, aimed at better tracking progress in the transition to a circular economy in the EU.  

In July 2023, the Commission put forward a proposal for a revision of the Waste Framework Directive, which would make producers responsible for the lifecycle of textile products, promoting the sustainable management of textile waste. Member States would also have to make sure that by the end of 2030, food waste would be reduced by 10% in processing and manufacturing, and by 30% per capita, in retail, restaurants and food services, and in households (targets compared to 2020). The Commission also published a proposal for a regulation setting circularity requirements on vehicle design and production concerning reusability, recyclability, recoverability and recycled content. It would lay down requirements on information and labelling of parts, components and materials. It would establish requirements on extended producer responsibility, collection and treatment of end-of-life vehicles (see dedicated carriage).  

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Author: Guillaume Ragonnaud, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/05/2024.