As it is known, the EC put forward an initial circular economy package in July 2014, but withdrew the legislative proposal on waste included in the package in February 2015, in order to make way for a new proposal. On 2 December 2015, the same Institution presented its new circular economy package containing a Communication and four legislative proposals on EU waste policy7 . This package included also an Action Plan to support the circular economy in each step of the value chain, from production to consumption, repair and manufacturing, waste management and secondary raw materials that are fed back into the economy. The Commission committed to undertake the detailed list of actions within its current mandate.
The aim of the Commission Report is “[…] to present a complete overview of the action already delivered in the implementation of the EU Action Plan since its adoption in December 2015, and to introduce key deliverables for 2017”. From a procedural point of view, the European Parliament position can be described as follows.
In its Report adopted on 24 January 2017, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) proposes to raise the ambition of the targets; to introduce separate targets for reuse, food waste, marine litter and waste oils; to introduce a single circular method; and to make derogation for individual MS subject to stricter conditions. The Report also reinforce the implementation of the waste hierarchy, make extended producer responsibility mandatory for specific waste streams, and strengthen requirements related to separate waste collection. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) adopted its opinion on 13 October 2016. Votes on Proposals are take place during the last Plenary Session on 14 March 2017. The amendments adopted are relating to the proposal for a Directive amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment.8
The Council is said to be close to reaching a common understanding on the Proposals, which are among the Maltese Presidency’s priorities and thus can be expected before the end of June 2017.
2017 is also a crucial year to develop a policy dialogue with stakeholders. In the occasion of the Inter-Institutional Stakeholders Conference on Circular Economy held in Brussels on 9-10 March, the Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee will launch a circular economy stakeholders platform.
During 2016 the European Commission has put in place a number of key initiatives to support the circular economy. These initiatives cover the full value chain, from production to consumption, waste management and use secondary raw materials. They are presented below in chronological order of their completion. The proposals presented are concerning: Online sales of goods (December 2015); Fertilisers (March 2016); Ecodesign (November 2016); Food waste (December 2016); Waste-to-Energy (January 2017) and the Proposal to amend the Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (January 2017).
Two issues are approached by the Commission in a special way: the Platform to support the financing of circular economy (January 2017), and the Green Public Procurement.
Relating to the first issue, together with the Report on the Implementation the Commission launched a platform with the European Investment Bank (EIB), financial market participants and business to increase awareness of the circular economy business logic and improve the uptake of circular economy projects by investors. While the business case for the circular economy is clear, this message still has to reach s good part of businesses in the EU and of the financial and banking sector.
New Green Public Procurement criteria was published by the Commission in 2016 for office buildings, for roads and for computers and monitors. These can be used by public authorities on a voluntary basis, and include requirements relevant to the circular economy. For examples, computers and monitors have to be designed so that they can be repaired with commonly available tools and that batteries can be easily replaces, and the possibility to upgrade them is rewarded. The used of recycled materials for the construction of roads and buildings is encouraged. As public procurements accounts for a large proportion of European consumption the inclusion of requirements related top circularity in public authorities purchasing will play a key role in the transition towards a circular economy.
The European Commission adopted some other new texts in five sectors9.
The first one is a “stepping up enforcement “of the revised Waste Shipment Regulation. On July 2016, the Commission adopted an implementing act setting out a preliminary correlation table between customs and waste codes. This new tool will help customs officials identify waste crossing EU borders illegally, for instance labelled as secondhand goods. It will strengthen the enforcement of the Waste Shipment Regulation and will help to prevent the leakage of valuable raw materials out of the EU.
Separate waste collection across EU Member States is a good practice that Commission has identify throughout 2016 reviewing the state of implementation of separate collection, including an assessment of the legal framework and the practical implementation of separate collection systems. Based on this assessment, the review led to a set of recommendations addressing different levels of decision-making. The recommendations have been discussed with stakeholders and EU Member States in a conference held on 29 January 2016. In addition, Horizon 2020 is supporting this work stream by financing a number of concrete projects in this area10.
Relating to the water reuse, in June 2016, guidelines were issued under the Common Implementation Strategy from the Water framework Directive11 with the aim to better integrate water reuse in water planning and management. “As water scarcity has worsened in some parts of the EU, the reuse of treated wastewater in safe and costeffective conditions is valuable but under-used means of increasing water supply and alleviating pressure on resources. Facilitating water reuse in agriculture will also contribute to recycling of nutrients by substitutions of solid fertilisers”12.
On November 2016, the Commission proposed an industry-wide voluntary protocol on the management of construction and demolition waste. The aim of the protocols is to improve the identification, source separation and collection of waste, as well as logistics, processing, and quality management. The protocol will this thus increase trust in the quality of recycled materials and encourage their use in the construction sector.
Based on volume, construction and demolition waste is the largest waste stream in the EU. The Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC establishes a target of 70% of construction and demolition waste to be recovered by 2020. However the potential for reuse and recycling of this waste stream is not being fully exploited. One obstacle is the lack of confidence in the quality of construction and demolition recycled materials. Horizon 2020 is also supporting several innovation projects in this area.
The recast of the Renewable Energy Directive13 as part of the package on Clean Energy package was the occasion for the European Commission for adopting sustainability criteria for all bioenergy uses. In order to limit pressure on limited biomass resources, the Commission proposed that only efficient convention of biomass to electricity should receive support. This will facilitate synergies with the circular economy in the uses of biomass and particularly wood, which can be used for a range of products as well as for energy.
The 2017 Commission Work Programme confirms the full commitment to ensure the timely implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan. During this year, the Commission will propose a Plastic Strategy to improve the economics, quality and uptake of plastic recycling reuse, to reduce plastic leakage in the environment and to decouple plastics production form fossil fuels.
The Commission will also put forward a detailed analysis of the legal, technical or practical problems at the interface of chemical, product and waste legislation that may hinder the transition of recycled material into the productive economy. In particular, the Commission will consider options to improve information but substances of concern in products and waste, and options to facilitate the management of substances of concern found in recycled materials. The objective is not only to promote non-toxic material cycles, but also enhance the uptake of secondary raw materials.
The Commission will also come forward with a legislative proposal on minimum quality requirements to promote the safe reuse of treated waste water, while ensuring the health and environmental safety of water reuse practices and free trade of food products in the EU.
The monitoring framework assessing the progress of the circular economy in the EU and its Member States will also presented in 2017 14.
Circular Economy is a reality with benefits for all Europeans. The consistent delivery of the Action Plan and a swift adoption of the legislative proposals on waste and fertilisers will help to bring clear directions to investors and support the transition.