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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Circular economy in Europe — Developing the knowledge base

The report describes the concept of the circular economy and outlines its key characteristics. It draws attention to both the benefits and challenges in transitioning to such an economy and highlights possible ways to measure progress.

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Urban sustainability issues — Resource-efficient cities: good practice

Cities are key players in minimising the use of resources and in developing the circular model. Generally, municipalities provide utilities and control public services for citizens and businesses that influence the majority of resource and energy use and the production of emissions and waste. Local authorities have the capacity to implement responses at multiple scales. This report analyses both the supply and the demand issues. It is divided into two parts: the first is devoted to how to avoid, prevent and reduce the use of resources; the second addresses reuse, recycling and harvesting.

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Urban sustainability issues — What is a resource-efficient city?

The report introduces the concept of urban metabolism, the circular model and the role of compactness in urban resource efficiency. Cities require natural resources and energy to sustain the activities and daily life of the urban population. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to minimise the use of resources needed to sustain urban life and to reduce waste and emissions. As the urban form shapes the way people live, work and move, compact cities offer great potential to reduce the dependence on natural resources and energy. Urban planning, based on a vision of the future and developed with local stakeholders and crossing administrative borders, is a key factor in increasing the density of urban areas.

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Urban sustainability issues — Enabling resource-efficient cities

Shifting to a resource-efficient society is not just a question of technological change but a systemic one. It is a process that assumes fundamental changes in the governance, economy, social structure, culture and practices of the societal system. This report analyses challenges and opportunities for enabling resource-efficient cities.

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Waste prevention in Europe — the status in 2014

The report ‘Waste prevention in Europe – the status in 2014’ is the second 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. Therefore, this report presents cross-programme comparison, including scope, objectives, targets, indicators, monitoring systems and measures, and policy instruments. The analysis is completed by presenting collection of examples of good practice for 27 analysed programmes.

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Assessment of global megatrends — extended background analysis

The purpose of this technical report is to complement the SOER 2015's Assessment of global megatrends by providing substantially more in-depth information and data on each megatrend. It covers aspects and topics that were given less attention — or no mention at all — in the SOER 2015 Assessment of global megatrends. It also provides background information on the research framework and processes that have underpinned EEA work on megatrends since 2009. The goal of this report is to stimulate thinking, spark discussion and thought, and encourage strategic decision-makers in Europe to consider emerging threats and opportunities, and ensure that policy is 'fit for the long term'. Essentially, it aims to trigger questions about what global developments should be accounted for in order to ensure that environmental policy is relevant, adequate and resilient.

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The European environment — state and outlook 2015 — synthesis report

The synthesis report informs future European environmental policy in general and its implementation between 2015 and 2020 in particular. It includes a reflection on the European environment in a global context, as well as chapters summarising the state of, trends in, and prospects for the environment in Europe.

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Assessment of global megatrends

The global megatrends report assesses 11 global megatrends (GMT) of importance for Europe's environment in the long term. In assessing key drivers, trends and implications for Europe, it aims to provide an improved basis for strategic European environmental policymaking.

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Environmental indicator report 2014

Environmental impacts of production-consumption systems in Europe. This report provides another perspective on the green economy transition, addressing the global value chains that meet European demand for goods and services. In doing so, it goes beyond previous reports and analyses to address the global dimension of Europe's economic activities. This perspective is highly relevant because European production and consumption systems rely heavily on imported resources and goods.

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Resource‑efficient green economy and EU policies

This report highlights the major forces fostering the shift to a resource-efficient green economy in Europe, including the role of EU policies. Currently, the economic and technological changes leading towards green economy objectives across the EU economy are proceeding too slowly; what is required is a much bigger, deeper, and more permanent change in the EU economy and society to create both new opportunities and substitution processes across the economic structure. To bring this about, it is important to study and understand enabling factors and mechanisms at the crossroads of policies and real economy dynamics that could accelerate and direct the transformation.

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EEA Signals 2014 – Well-being and the environment

Building a resource-efficient and circular economy in Europe: We are extracting and using more resources than our planet can produce in a given time. Current consumption and production levels are not sustainable and risk weakening our planet’s ability to provide for us. We need to reshape our production and consumption systems to enable us to produce the same amount of output with less resource, to re‑use, recover and recycle more, and to reduce the amount of waste we generate.

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Progress on resource efficiency and decoupling in the EU‑27

Messages emerging from environmentally extended input‑output analysis with relevance to the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and the 7EAP

Progress on resource efficiency and decoupling in the EU‑27 - Read More…

Performance of water utilities beyond compliance

Sharing knowledge bases to support environmental and resource-efficiency policies and technical improvements

Performance of water utilities beyond compliance - Read More…

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