‘All 54 actions under the Circular Economy Action Plan launched in 2015 have now been delivered’, says a comprehensive EU report on the implementation of the plan released in March, 2019.

The report describes the main achievements under the Action Plan and points at future challenges to making the transition to a circular economy. It states that the Circular Economy Action Plan ‘has accelerated the transition towards a circular economy in Europe, which in turn has helped putting the EU back on a path of job creation’.

Illustration of a circular economy action plan

Source: European Commission

The EU Monitoring Framework for the Circular Economy has revealed that sectors with circular economy relevance employed more than 3 million workers in 2016 which is a 3% increase compared to 2012. There are expectations for additional jobs associated with the secondary raw material markets.

Circularity has triggered the uptake of new Circular Economy Business Models. Repair, reuse and recycling sectors had a turnover of EUR 147 billion in 2016. The report recognises that the Circular Economy Action Plans has stimulated a systemic approach in entire value chains.

The report takes stock of the Commission’s work in circular design and production processes emphasising progress with the implementation of the Eco-design Working Plan 2016-2019. Eco-design and Energy Labelling measures for several products now include rules on material efficiency requirements such as availability of spare parts, ease of repair, and facilitating end-of-life treatment.

Another aspect of the transition to the circular economy is related to providing reliable environmental information to consumers. The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) allow companies ‘to make environmental claims that are reliable, reproducible and comparable’ and can guide consumers and business partners in their choices.

A revised waste legislation framework entered into force in 2018 increasing recycling targets for a number of waste streams. The EU Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy took a systemic, life-cycle approach to the plastics value chain. Its importance is significant given the gravity of the plastic waste problem. Addressing plastic waste is a key theme for Interreg Europe PLASTECO project. 

Despite obvious progress, challenges remain. Scaling up action is one of them and circular economy agenda and approaches need to cover a much bigger share of companies and households. The circular economy agenda is also to be integrated in the EU industrial policy. Continuing support to research, innovation and investment in the priority sectors of the Circular Economy Action Plan is a pre-condition for success. With the adoption of the report the Circular Economy Package is completed.

Regional authorities are instrumental in addressing these challenges especially with regards to scaling up action and reaching out to more companies and households. These issues have been discussed during a  webinar on circular business models organized by the Policy Learning Platform. 

The Circular Economy Action Plan promotes innovative industrial processes including industrial symbiosis. Interreg Europe programme supports interregional exchange and learning in this area. Opportunities for the uptake of industrial symbiosis in the regions will be tackled in the upcoming platform’s thematic workshop on the topic that will be held in Helsinki on the 22-23 May, 2019.

Image credit: Photo by FWStudio from Pexels