Circular economy policy to focus on producer responsibility

The EU’s widely-anticipated circular economy policy package could place more emphasis on extended producer responsibility and product design rather than broad recycling targets.

The revised policy package, which is tasked with increasing recycling, reuse and remanufacturing across the EU, is currently being drawn up following a 12-week consultation that ended in August 2015.

It will replace the European Commission’s initial proposals which were axed in December 2014. The original package would have set a number of broad waste-related targets, including reducing municipal waste and packaging waste by 70 per cent and 80 per cent respectively by 2030, banning a range of materials from landfill by 2025 and cutting food waste by 30 per cent by 2025.

The Commission announced that a “more ambitious” package would be agreed by the end of 2015.

Research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that the EU currently uses raw materials just once on average and that a concerted move towards a circular economy could be worth €1.8 trillion (£1.3 trillion). 

Producer responsibility

Rather than just introduce new national targets, the new circular economy package has been tipped to focus more on encouraging resource efficient production and design measures that make products more recyclable, repairable and longer-lasting. 

This could include introducing incentives to increase demand from manufacturers for recycled and remanufactured materials and clamping down on so-called ‘planned obsolescence’, whereby manufacturers purposefully reduce the lifespan or reusability of products.

A leaked European Commission document seen by Materials Recycling World suggests that extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes obligating producers to contribute to product waste recovery could also feature heavily. 

According to a recent study, only 45 per cent of product waste in Europe is currently covered by producer responsibility schemes.

‘New economic model’

Speaking in June 2015 after the European Parliament voted in favour of introducing an ambitious circular economy strategy, Piotr Barczak, policy officer for waste at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: “The European Parliament has been brave, put its neck out and ambition is the battle cry. Essentially, it wants the EU to do all it can to avoid a ‘business-as-usual’ approach [to resource use].

“Companies, NGOs and citizens can all see the value of adopting a new economic model which makes more careful use of our resources and limits waste.”

Innovation funding

Meanwhile, the European Commission has confirmed that it will provide €670 million (£492 million) in funding over the next two years to help develop circular economy practices.

The funding is part of the 2016-17 work programme for the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, which was launched in 2014 and will invest €77 billion (£57 billion) in research and innovation by 2020. 

Posted under Material and Packaging Efficiency, Waste Management and Environmental Regulations and Legislation on 20 October 2015