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Reaching 2030’s residual municipal waste target – why recycling is not enough

Municipal waste accounts for 27 % of the total waste generated in the EU (excluding mineral waste). Due to its complex composition and ubiquity, it can have significant negative impacts on human health and on the environment if not managed properly. The 2020 EU Circular Economy Action Plan has established an objective of halving the quantity of municipal waste that is not recycled or prepared for reuse by 2030. At the same time, all EU member states will have to recycle or prepare for reuse at least 60% of generated municipal waste by 2030. This briefing explores how these two targets are linked and how more ambitious waste prevention actions will be key for achieving them simultaneously.

Reaching 2030’s residual municipal waste target – why recycling is not enough - Read More…

Monitoring the Circular Economy with new emerging data streams

The existing European Union’s (EU) monitoring framework for circular economy was established to track how the EU is transitioning to a more circular economy. To avoid unnecessary added costs and quickly establishing the EU’s monitoring framework, it has been predominantly based on existing data and covers essential elements of the transition. To complement this macro-view on how circular economy progresses in Europe, the European Environment Agency is exploring opportunities to collect new types of data generated for other purposes and, working with other partners, use them to better understand this transformation of Europe’s economy. This briefing provides an overview of four different data types used to prototype new indicators covering different circular economy processes not covered well by data today.

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Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

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Microplastics from textiles: Towards a circular economy for textiles in Europe

Awareness is increasing about the presence of microplastics in our seas, land and air - and their negative effects on ecosystems, animals and people. Microplastics are directly released into our environment or result from degradation of larger pieces of plastic. Wearing and washing of textiles from synthetic (plastic) fibres is a recognised source of microplastics in the environment. Textiles and plastics are among the key value chains identified in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and are addressed in its implementation.

Microplastics from textiles: Towards a circular economy for textiles in Europe - Read More…

Linking cross border shipments of waste in the EU with the circular economy

This briefing provides a snapshot of the status of the traded non-hazardous, recyclable wastes within the EU in order to provide knowledge and information in support of the review of the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation. The information and knowledge in the briefing aims at improving the functioning of secondary material markets by offering insights and potential solutions so that waste is treated in the best possible way in line with the principles of the waste hierarchy.

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Emerging waste streams: Opportunities and challenges of the clean-energy transition from a circular economy perspective

Renewable energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and batteries, are essential for Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. Deployment, maintenance and replacement of this infrastructure requires significant resources, including many substances included in the EU list of critical raw materials. Waste arising from end-of-life clean energy infrastructure is projected to grow up to 30-fold over the next 10 years, presenting significant opportunities to reduce consumption of scarce raw materials by recycling metals and other valuable resources back into production systems. Circular economy approaches such as repair and upgrading of equipment and recycling up to 90% of end-of-life infrastructure can underpin the sustainability credentials of Europe’s renewable energy transition.

Emerging waste streams: Opportunities and challenges of the clean-energy transition from a circular economy perspective - Read More…

Impacts of COVID-19 on single-use plastic in Europe’s environment

The COVID19 pandemic is having immense effects on societies across the world. It has caused millions of deaths worldwide and challenged our health systems and economies. The pandemic - and responses to it, involving lockdowns, use of personal protection equipment, and stay-at-home measures - has far reaching health and economic consequences. This briefing deals with the less visible impacts on our environment and climate originating from changed use of single use-plastics because of the pandemic.

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Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals

The EU chemicals strategy for sustainability aims to ensure that chemicals are ‘produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society … while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations’ (EC, 2020). Building sustainability dimensions into products’ design phase can support the delivery of these objectives. Key features of sustainable products include chemical safety, recyclability and a low environmental impact. This briefing describes approaches that are safe and sustainable by design and identifies enabling conditions, which support their uptake, and the related challenges and opportunities.

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Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals

The EU chemicals strategy for sustainability aims to ensure that chemicals are ‘produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society … while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations’ (EC, 2020). Building sustainability dimensions into products’ design phase can support the delivery of these objectives. Key features of sustainable products include chemical safety, recyclability and a low environmental impact. This briefing describes approaches that are safe and sustainable by design and identifies enabling conditions, which support their uptake, and the related challenges and opportunities.

Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals - Read More…

Plastic in textiles: towards a circular economy for synthetic textiles in Europe

Plastic-based — or ‘synthetic’— textiles are woven into our daily lives in Europe. They are in the clothes we wear, the towels we use and the bed sheets we sleep in. They are in the carpets, curtains and cushions we decorate our homes and offices with. And they are in safety belts, and car tyres, workwear and sportswear. Synthetic textile fibres are produced from fossil fuel resources, such as oil and natural gas. Their production, consumption and related waste handling generate greenhouse gas emissions, use non-renewable resources and can release microplastics. This briefing provides an overview of the synthetic textile economy in Europe, analyses environmental and climate impacts, and highlights the potential for developing a circular economy value chain.

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A framework for enabling circular business models in Europe

The circular economy has become a priority policy topic in Europe (EC, 2015, 2020) and is a key objective of the European Green Deal. There is increasing interest in the potential for altering traditional business models to enable materials and products to be reused and remain in the economy for as long as possible — as opposed to being used once and then discarded. This briefing presents an analytical framework, identifying actions that can be taken to implement circular business models effectively.

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Plastics, the circular economy and Europe′s environment

Plastics play an essential role in modern society, but also lead to significant impacts on the environment and climate. Reducing such impacts while retaining the usefulness of plastics requires a shift towards a more circular and sustainable plastics system. This report tells the story of plastics, and their effect on the environment and climate, and looks at their place in a European circular economy.

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Cutting greenhouse gas emissions through circular economy actions in the buildings sector

Together, European countries have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions significantly since 1990. Achieving climate neutrality by 2050, however, will demand additional and long-lasting climate mitigation strategies. With materials management accounting for up to two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, one promising area for further reductions is the circular economy. A new methodological approach helps to identify circular efforts that can contribute to reducing emissions in any sector and has highlighted key ways to cut emissions in the buildings sector.

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The case for increasing recycling: Estimating the potential for recycling in Europe

EU legislation includes recycling targets for municipal, construction and demolition, and electronic waste. This briefing shows that there is significant potential to increase recycling from all of these streams. However, to fully exploit this potential, current barriers need to be overcome, e.g. price competition from virgin resource alternatives, infrastructure capacity and the complexity of certain waste products. This also requires strong implementation of targeted regulations to increase separate collection. Implementing new policy measures, some of which are already included in Europe’s 2020 circular economy action plan, can both directly and indirectly exploit the potential for increased recycling.

The case for increasing recycling: Estimating the potential for recycling in Europe - Read More…

Europe’s consumption in a circular economy: the benefits of longer-lasting electronics

This briefing analyses the opportunities to reduce environmental and climate impacts from electronics by increasing product lifetime, delaying obsolescence and improving their suitability for circular economy business models.

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Bio-waste in Europe — turning challenges into opportunities

Bio-waste – mainly food and garden waste – is a key waste stream with a high potential for contributing to a more circular economy. This report provides an overview of bio-waste generation, prevention, collection, and treatment in Europe.

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Construction and demolition waste: challenges and opportunities in a circular economy

Construction and demolition waste (C&DW) comprises the largest waste stream in the EU, with relatively stable amounts produced over time and high recovery rates. Although this may suggest that the construction sector is highly circular, scrutiny of waste management practices reveals that C&DW recovery is largely based on backfilling operations and low-grade recovery, such as using recycled aggregates in road sub-bases. This briefing examines how circular economy-inspired actions can help achieve waste policy objectives, namely waste prevention and increase both the quantity and the quality of recycling for C&DW while reducing hazardous materials in the waste.

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Textiles in Europe's circular economy

Textiles are fundamental to our society, providing us with clothing, shoes, carpets, curtains, furniture, etc. for homes, offices and public buildings. The textiles industry employs millions of people worldwide, making it among the largest in the world and an important part of Europe’s manufacturing industry. However, textile production and consumption cause significant environmental, climate and social impacts by using resources, water, land and chemicals and emitting greenhouse gases and pollutants. This briefing provides an EU perspective of the environmental and climate pressures from textile production and consumption, and discusses how circular business models and regulation can help move us towards a circular textiles economy.

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Reducing loss of resources from waste management is key to strengthening the circular economy in Europe

Europe relies heavily on material resources for almost all of society’s activities. Its extraction and production of material resources have significant impacts on the environment and human health, as well as on the economy. It is essential to reuse such resources in European economies, keeping their value high, delivering value for longer periods and reducing the need to use virgin materials. While progress is being made in Europe, by implementing an ambitious waste policy and the Circular Economy Framework, significant amounts of valuable resources are still lost through inefficient waste management practices. This briefing describes material losses in Europe for some key waste streams, namely waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), end-of-life batteries, plastic waste and textile waste.

Reducing loss of resources from waste management is key to strengthening the circular economy in Europe - Read More…

The plastic waste trade in the circular economy

Europe is at crossroads regarding its management of plastic, plastic waste and the plastic waste trade. Rapidly growing amounts of plastic have negative environmental and climate impacts. Plastic and plastic waste are traded worldwide. Exporting plastic waste from the EU to Asia is a means of dealing with insufficient recycling capacities in the EU. Waste import restrictions in China have shifted exports to other countries. Because some types of plastic waste have been added to the United Nations Basel Convention, the option of exporting plastic waste is becoming increasingly difficult. This requires policymakers, business and other actors to build a more robust and circular economy for plastic in Europe.

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Paving the way for a circular economy: insights on status and potentials

Fostering circular material use requires a broad system perspective and extensive stakeholder involvement. The entire product lifecycle — including the design, production, consumption and waste phases — needs to be addressed in a coherent way. The enablers of and barriers to circular business models need to be well understood and addressed before innovation and competitiveness can be enhanced.

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Electric vehicles from life cycle and circular economy perspectives - TERM 2018

Through the Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) report, the EEA has been monitoring progress in integrating environmental objectives in transport since 2000. The TERM report provides information to the EEA's member countries, the EU and the public. The TERM includes several indicators used for tracking the short- and long-term environmental performance of the transport sector and for measuring progress towards meeting key transport-related policy targets. Since 2017, the indicator-based assessment component of the TERM report has been published as a separate briefing.

Electric vehicles from life cycle and circular economy perspectives - TERM 2018 - Read More…

The circular economy and the bioeconomy — Partners in sustainability

This is the third in a series of reports on the circular economy in support of the framing, implementation and evaluation of European circular economy policy from an environmental perspective. The two previous reports applied a systemic approach to framing a circular economy and to the products within it. This report on the bioeconomy addresses circularity aspects of bio-based products and the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

The circular economy and the bioeconomy — Partners in sustainability - Read More…

Waste prevention in Europe: policies, status and trends in 2017

This is the fourth EEA report in a series of annual reviews of waste prevention programmes in Europe as stipulated in the European Union (EU) Waste Framework Directive (EU, 2008). This year's review focuses on reuse and covers 33 national and regional waste prevention programmes that had been adopted by the end of 2017

Waste prevention in Europe: policies, status and trends in 2017 - Read More…

Circular by design - Products in the circular economy

This report explores the circular economy from a product perspective, applying a systemic approach and transition theory. Drivers of product design and usage are discussed in the context of emerging consumption trends and business models. For governance to be effective, it has to address the product life-cycle and the societal context determining it. Indicators and assessment tools are proposed that can help fill the current data and knowledge gaps.

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Prevention of hazardous waste in Europe — the status in 2015

The report ‘Prevention of hazardous waste in Europe – the status in 2015’ is the third in a series of annual reviews of waste prevention programmes in Europe as stipulated by the Waste Framework Directive. EU Member States are obliged to adopt waste prevention programmes, while EEA is invited to carry out review on their completion and implementation.

Prevention of hazardous waste in Europe — the status in 2015 - Read More…

More from less — material resource efficiency in Europe

This report presents an overview of approaches to material resource efficiency and to circular economy in thirty two European countries. It explores similarities and differences in national policy responses, with respect to policy objectives, priority resources and sectors, driving forces, targets and indicators, and the institutional setup. The report also reviews the EU policy framework for resource efficiency and analyses trends in material use and resource productivity between 2000 and 2014. Finally, it includes a number of considerations for the development of future policies on material resource efficiency and the circular economy. The analysis is richly illustrated with some sixty examples of countries’ policy initiatives, described in more detail in the 32 country profiles published alongside the main report.

More from less — material resource efficiency in Europe - Read More…

The direct and indirect impacts of EU policies on land

The 2011 Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe states, in its milestone of actions to address land as a resource, that 'By 2020, EU policies take into account their direct and indirect impact on land use in the EU and globally. This report presents a methodology for the assessment of European Union (EU) policies in terms of their land-related implications in Europe and provides an initial testing of the methodology across key EU policies and two in-depth case studies, which focus on Cohesion Policy spending on transport in Poland and Spain.

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