The economy plays a vital role in our lives by providing access to employment, products and services that help us thrive. Unfortunately, with its key sectors like agriculture, energy and transport, our economy also harms the environment and causes climate change. Europe needs a circular, carbon-neutral and zero-pollution economy.

How long should your smart phone last?

A product lifetime is the interval from when a product is sold to when it is discarded. There are three types of lifetimes used to describe products:

  • Actual lifetime is the interval from when a product is sold to when it is discarded or replaced.
  • Designed lifetime is the lifetime that a manufacturer defines its product to remain functional for.
  • Desired lifetime is the average time that consumers want products to last.

Reducing buildings' emissions through circularity

Buildings play a vital role in Europe’s environment and climate policy, given their significant use of resources and energy.  

  • Avoiding the use of new materials helps reduce C02 emissions and save resources and resources.
  • Extending building lifespans through repairs and retrofitting helps reduce demand for new construction, which requires many more materials than renovations.
  • Applying circular renovation strategies, such as using materials that are recycled or designed for disassembly, could cumulatively reduce approximately 650 million tonnes of materials and save substantial amounts of CO2 from 2022 to 2050 if the strategies are implemented through renovating the EU building stock.

Monitoring Europe’s Circular Economy

Transitioning to a circular economy is one of the EU’s key strategic ambitions and will improve sustainability, reduce pollution, and mitigate climate change. Measurement of progress towards Europe's circular ambitions is critical to understanding what actions are successful and what areas need more attention.

The EEA’s Circularity Metrics Lab (CML) is a monitoring platform that presents data to report on the initiatives and innovations that characterize a functioning circular economy.

The EEA’s CML complements other monitoring initiatives such as the European Commission’s Circular Economy Monitoring Framework by providing additional information on the growth of the circular economy from novel sources and across a wide range of perspectives.

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The trouble with electronics

Over 20 kg of electronics is produced annually per person in the EU. Household appliances, computers, TVs and mobile phones are complex products with diverse materials, making them difficult to recycle. Still, some of these materials are scarce resources and recycling them is critical for the EU economy and environment.

Two EU initiatives explicitly target electronic recycling:

  • The right to repair: The EU Commission is planning several initiatives to improve the reparability of products. This includes the right to repair, a sustainable products initiative, improved design requirements, and measures that make repairing computers and other electronics more cost-effective.
  • The Ecodesign Directive provides EU rules for improving products’ environmental performance, including minimum energy efficiency requirements.

Combined, these initiatives can significantly reduce environmental impact and help the EU meet existing environmental, climate and circularity objectives.

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