Magic or recycling?
Image © Paula Bailey
There is currently a drive towards a ‘circular economy’ in the European Union. This is an economic system which retains resources, virtually eliminating waste disposal instead of extracting raw materials, using them once and throwing them away. In a truly circular economy, re-use, repair and recycling become the norm, and waste is a thing of the past. Keeping materials in productive use for longer, reusing them, and with improved efficiency would also improve EU competitiveness on the global stage.
From a linear to a circular economy
Europe took a step closer to the circular economy ideal recently, when the European Commission adopted a proposal to boost recycling and reduce landfill.
The proposal includes more stringent targets for recycling, including targets to recycle 70 % of municipal waste and 80 % of packaging waste by 2030. It also includes a proposed ban on landfilling recyclable and biodegradable waste by 2025. Other targets aim to reduce marine litter and food waste.
Achieving the new waste targets would create 580 000 new jobs, while making Europe more competitive and reducing demand for costly scarce resources, the Commission states. The proposals also mean lower environmental impacts and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Circular economy progress
There is still a huge difference between recycling rates in different EU Member States, according to a report published last year, which looked at countries' progress towards the 2020 target to recycle 50 % of municipal solid waste.
The concept of the circular economy is explained in more detail in the 2014 edition of the EEA’s Signals publication, ‘Well-being and the environment’. It considers how Europe can change some of the economic drivers of environmental harm, benefiting environment and also improving quality of life.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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