How the EU wants to achieve a circular economy by 2050  

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Recycling is an important part of the circular economy  

Find out about the EU’s circular economy action plan and what additional measures MEPs want to reduce waste and make products more sustainable.

If we keep on exploiting resources as we do now, by 2050 we would need the resources of three Earths. Finite resources and climate issues require moving from a ‘take-make-dispose’ society to a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050.


The current crisis highlighted weaknesses in resource and value chains, hitting SMEs and industry. A circular economy will cut CO2-emissions, whilst stimulating economic growth and creating job opportunities.


Read more about the definition and benefits of the circular economy


The EU circular economy action plan


In line with EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal under the Green Deal, the European Commission proposed in March 2022 the first package of measures to speed up transition towards a circular economy, as announced in the Circular Economy Action Plan. The proposals include boosting sustainable products, empowering consumers for the green transition, the review of the construction product regulation, as well as a strategy on sustainable textiles.


The Parliament called for tighter recycling rules and binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption in a resolution adopted on 9 February 2021.


Moving to sustainable products


To achieve an EU market of sustainable, climate-neutral and resource-efficient products, the Commission proposes extending the Ecodesign Directive to non-energy-related products and creating Digital Product Passports, with the aim of sharing all relevant information along the product lifecycle.

MEPs also back initiatives to fight planned obsolescence, improve the durability and reparability of products and to strengthen consumer rights with the right to repair. They insist consumers have the right to be properly informed about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy and asked the Commission to make proposals to fight so-called greenwashing, when companies present themselves as being more environmentally-friendly than they really are.

Making crucial sectors circular


Circularity and sustainability must be incorporated in all stages of a value chain to achieve a fully circular economy: from design to production and all the way to the consumer. The Commission action plan sets down seven key areas essential to achieving a circular economy: plastics; textiles; e-waste; food, water and nutrients; packaging; batteries and vehicles; buildings and construction.


Plastics


MEPs back the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy,  which would phase out the use of microplastics.


Read more about the EU strategy to reduce plastic waste.


Textiles


Textiles use a lot of raw materials and water, with less than 1% recycled.

The EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles presented by the Commission in March 2020 aims to ensure that by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, made as much as possible of recycled fibres and free of hazardous substances.

MEPs want new measures against microfibre loss and stricter standards on water use.


Discover how the textile production and waste affects the environment


Electronics and ICT


Electronic and electrical waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU and less than 40% is recycled. MEPs want the EU to promote longer product life through reusability and reparability.


Learn some E-waste facts and figures


Food, water and nutrients


An estimated 20% of food is lost or wasted in the EU. MEPs urge the halving of food waste by 2030 under the Farm to Fork Strategy.


Packaging


Packaging waste in Europe reached a record high in 2017. New rules aim to ensure that all packaging on the EU market is economically reusable or recyclable by 2030.


Batteries and vehicles


MEPs agreed new rules requiring the production and materials of all batteries on the EU market to have a low carbon footprint and respect human rights, social and ecological standards.

Find out the new EU rules for more sustainable and ethical batteries proposed by Parliament


Construction and buildings


Construction accounts for more than 35% of total EU waste. MEPs want to increase the lifespan of buildings, set reduction targets for the carbon footprint of materials and establish minimum requirements on resource and energy efficiency.


Waste management and shipment


The EU generates more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste a year. MEPs urge EU countries to increase high-quality recycling, move away from landfilling, minimise incineration and reduce harmful chemicals in waste.


Find out about landfilling and recycling statistics in the EU