European Commission adopts Circular Economy Package

By Erin Voegele | December 03, 2015

The European Commission has announced the adoption of a new Circular Economy Package that aims to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. The effort is expected to boost global competitiveness, foster economic growth and generate new jobs.

According to the EC, the proposed actions contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and reuse, bringing benefits to both the economy and the environment. The proposals cover the full lifecycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. This transition will be supported financially by ESIF funding, €650 million ($689.68 million) from Horizon 2020 (the EU funding program for research and innovation), €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management, and investments in the circular economy at national level.

Information released by the EC states the action plan includes a number of actions that will target market barriers in specific sectors or material streams, such as plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and biobased products, as well as horizontal measures in areas such as innovation and investment.

Regarding biomass, the EC has indicated it will promote an efficient use of biobased resources through a series of measures, such as guidance and dissemination of best practices of the cascading use of biomass and support to innovation in the bio-economy. The EC also noted its revised legislative proposal on waste contains a target for recycling wood packaging and a provision to ensure the separate collection of biowaste.

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has criticized the package for its lack of mandatory food collection. “Anaerobic digestion (AD), a form of organic waste management, creates resilience to these trends by using resources that we may otherwise send to landfill, particularly food waste,” said the REA in a statement. “The process turns the waste into biogas (which can be used to heat homes and cook food) and organic fertiliser (called digestate). It provides alternative incomes to many farmers and rural communities, supporting the countryside economy.

“Our discussions with councils lead us to believe that the collection of food wastes from homes and businesses makes business sense, not just environmental sense,” said Jeremy Jacobs, technical director at the REA. “Facing a lack of support from the European Commission on this issue we think it critical to push this cause and support a strong domestic biogas industry. It provides new incomes to many living in rural areas, is a growing source of employment, and enhances our sustainability." 

“The twelve damaging policies to the renewables industry that have emerged so far, and lingering questions for the AD industry around the Feed-in Tariff and pre-accreditation, are doing serious damage to the U.K’.s reputation,” said James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the REA. In light of this, we have publicised our Food Waste Push. We’re looking for thousands of signatures from the public to back separate food waste collection across the UK. This supports national food production, energy security, and green growth." 

Additional information on the Circular Economy Package is available in the EC’s announcement and a related question and answer document.