Reaction from ACE, EuropaBio, European Bioplastics, CEPI, EUROPEN

Circular Economy: Part I – What does the future hold now?

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Related tags Recycling European union Waste

The European Commission has adopted a revised Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers - "closing the loop" of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use. 

The transition will receive more than €650m from Horizon 2020 (the EU funding programme for research and innovation) and €5.5bn from structural funds for waste management, and investments in the circular economy at national level. 

'Take, make, use and throw away'

The proposals, prepared by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioners Karmenu Vella and Elżbieta Bieńkowska cover the full lifecycle: from production and consumption to waste management and secondary raw materials. 

"Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the 'take, make, use and throw away' approach,” ​said Timmermans. 

“We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them. 

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works. 

“By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs." 

There will also be a revised legislative proposal EU targets for reducing waste; recycling rates of 65% of municipal waste by 2030; and 75% of packaging waste by 2030 and a binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030. 

Other measures include a ban on landfilling of separately collected waste; concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis and economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market. 

'The proposals aim too low'

Some MEPs, such as Giovanni La Via, environment committee chairman, European Parliament, claim the proposals for waste recycling, reducing food waste and landfill aim too low. 

Mr Timmermans said this package is now more ambitious. But if we were to assess this package on the basis of the waste targets, we wouldn’t qualify it this way,​” he said. 

We would have liked more ambition on food waste, to have a more balanced package, which is what Parliament wanted​.” 

The news has received a mixed reaction from industry groups including ACE, The European Bioplastics association, EuropaBio, CEPI and EUROPEN. 

The European Bioplastics Association said bioplastics should play an important role within legislation to revise waste targets while ACE, which represents the European beverage carton industry believes just increasing individual recycling targets for key materials like paper, plastics and aluminum will not be sufficient to match innovation.

Our industry is firmly committed to contribute to the realization of a Circular Economy and will look with special attention to the proposed review of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive,​” said Bertil Heerink, director general, ACE.

The EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy

  • Funding of over €650m under Horizon 2020 and €5.5bn
  • Actions to reduce food waste including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials;
  • Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
  • Arevised Regulation on fertilisers;
  • A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for reducing marine litter;
  • A series of actions on water reuse including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.

Just increasing the individual recycling targets for key materials like paper, plastics and aluminum will not be sufficient to match innovation. Measures must be taken that strengthen existing recycling solutions, foster innovation in new recyclable materials and recycling techniques, resulting in a further increase in recycling of beverage cartons across Europe​.”

European Bioplastics association 

The European Bioplastics association claims it is looking forward to contributing to the forthcoming debate on how renewable and biodegradable materials can best fit into the revised Circular Economy package. 

The ‘Closing the loop’ EU action plan acknowledges‘bio-based materials present advantages due to their renewability, biodegradability and compostability said François de Bie, chairman, European Bioplastics.  

“Bioplastics should play an important role within legislation to revise waste targets, as they contribute to multiplying end-of-life options, such as mechanical recycling, organic recycling and waste to ‘bio’-energy” added de Bie. 

However, he said the Commission’s proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive falls short of fully recognising the advantages of organic waste collection for Europe. 

According to de Bie, organic waste accounts for the largest fraction (30%-45%) in municipal waste. Yet, today, only 25% of the 90 million tonnes of bio-waste in Europe is collected separately and recycled in a resource-efficient and sustainable manner by composting and anaerobic digestion. 

With the right waste legislation in place, an additional 60 million tonnes of bio-waste could be recycled, which would result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs.

“Even though production will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, forecasts show in 2019, more than 95% of bioplastics production capacities will be located outside of Europe, he said.

“If EU Member States want to attract investment and jobs in this sector, they need to tackle the problem of limited economic and political support, which currently hampers the scale-up of production capacities and market penetration of bioplastic products in Europe.

“The right strategy and conditions are needed to reverse this trend and help to make full use of bioplastics’ environmental, economic and social potential in Europe.”

Read Circular Economy: Part II - Serious concerns over long-term plans for investment here​.

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