Turning waste into a resource - Moving towards a 'circular economy'

12-12-2014

In a circular economy, unlike in a linear economy based on a 'take-make-consume-throw away' pattern, the materials contained within products are reused, turning waste into a valuable resource. Although businesses have started to use this model on specific products in various sectors, it has not yet been implemented on a large scale. In its communication on a circular economy presented in July 2014, the European Commission proposes to double the rate of increase in resource productivity by 2030. To achieve this, the European Commission considers a broad range of measures related to design and innovation, financing for resource efficiency, and awareness of businesses and consumers. A transition towards a more circular economy could have a number of benefits: enhancing the security of supply for raw materials; stimulating GDP growth; strengthening the competitiveness of businesses in the EU; and helping to protect the environment. However, there are also a number of barriers and challenges: moving towards circularity is a major change at a time of economic crisis; key enablers for the transition are still missing; significant discrepancies currently exist between Member States; and such a transition is a major multi-level governance challenge. The European Parliament has repeatedly stressed the need for a shift towards resource efficiency and eco-innovation. Many Member States have been critical of the Commission proposal even though some have already started moving towards a circular economy. For their part, stakeholders have expressed diverging views.

In a circular economy, unlike in a linear economy based on a 'take-make-consume-throw away' pattern, the materials contained within products are reused, turning waste into a valuable resource. Although businesses have started to use this model on specific products in various sectors, it has not yet been implemented on a large scale. In its communication on a circular economy presented in July 2014, the European Commission proposes to double the rate of increase in resource productivity by 2030. To achieve this, the European Commission considers a broad range of measures related to design and innovation, financing for resource efficiency, and awareness of businesses and consumers. A transition towards a more circular economy could have a number of benefits: enhancing the security of supply for raw materials; stimulating GDP growth; strengthening the competitiveness of businesses in the EU; and helping to protect the environment. However, there are also a number of barriers and challenges: moving towards circularity is a major change at a time of economic crisis; key enablers for the transition are still missing; significant discrepancies currently exist between Member States; and such a transition is a major multi-level governance challenge. The European Parliament has repeatedly stressed the need for a shift towards resource efficiency and eco-innovation. Many Member States have been critical of the Commission proposal even though some have already started moving towards a circular economy. For their part, stakeholders have expressed diverging views.