New Circular Economy Action Plan

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The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan today, the 11 March 2020. The Action Plan will speed up the EU's transition towards a circular economy and is one of the main blocks of the European Green Deal. The progressive transition to a sustainable economic system is also an indispensable part of the new EU industrial strategy. 


The Action Plan announces initiatives that address the entire product life cycle and aims to ensure that the value of resources is maintained for as long as possible. The EU will aim to move towards a regenerative growth model, replacing the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a 'take-make-consume-throw away' pattern. 


Some problems that will be addressed by the new action plan have direct links with EU product, consumers and chemicals legislation and can be tackled through regulatory action or clarification of existing legislation at EU level. 


According to the new Action Plan, consumers will have reliable, verifiable and comparable information on products' sustainability features. Moreover, the EU will prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed in the EU market and identify options to prioritise reuse and repair before recycling. 


The Action Plan proposes a list of concrete actions outlining measures that cover the entire product life cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. Some sectors will be especially targeted, such as electronics and ICT, batteries and vehicles, packaging, plastic, textiles, construction and buildings, food, water and nutrients. The initiatives to promote circularity in these sectors include the Circular Electronics Initiative, expanding the scope of the Ecodesign Directive, the policy framework for bio-based plastics, the Strategy for Textiles and the Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment. 


Regarding waste, the EU will review and modernise some waste so that they further contribute to the circular economy. Treatment of waste domestically will be preferred; therefore, development of high-quality recycling installations will be supported. 


The Action Plan also supports the well-functioning and integrated internal market for secondary raw materials to ensure that they are safe, competitively priced and reliable. Opportunities of closing loops for biological materials will be considered.

The action plan has been announced the day after the EU Industrial Strategy was presented. This was done on purpose in order to mobilise the industrial sector. A special attention is given to the resource-intensive sectors (e.g. textiles, construction, electronics and plastics) and to direct them towards a model of sustainable and inclusive growth, ensuring efficient and clean resource cycles.

Key actions:

​A Sustainable Product Policy Framework:

 Proposal for a sustainable product policy initiative - 2021
 Proposal empowering consumers in the green transition - 2020
 Legislative and non-legislative measures establishing a new "right to repair" – 2021
 Proposal on substantiating green claims - 2020
Mandatory Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria and targets in sectoral legislation and phasing-in mandatory reporting on GPP - as of 2021
 Review of the Industrial Emissions Directive, including the integration of circular economy practices in upcoming Best Available Techniques reference documents - as of 2021
 Launch of an industry-led industrial symbiosis reporting and certification system – 2022
​Key product value chains:

Circular Electronics Initiative - 2020/2021
 Common charger solution - 2020/2021
 Reward systems to return old devices - 2020/2021
 Review of the Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and guidance to clarify its links with REACH and Ecodesign requirements - 2021
 Proposal for a new regulatory framework for batteries - 2020
 Review of the rules on end-of-life vehicles - 2021
 Review of the rules on proper treatment of waste oils - 2022
 Review to reinforce the essential requirements for packaging and reduce (over)packaging and packaging waste - 2021
 Mandatory requirements on recycled plastic content and plastic waste reduction measures for key products such as packaging, construction materials and vehicles - 2021/2022
 Restriction of intentionally added microplastics and measures on unintentional release of microplastics - 2021
 Policy framework for bio-based plastics and biodegradable or compostable plastics - 2021
 EU Strategy for Textiles - 2021
 Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment - 2021
 Initiative to substitute single-use packaging, tableware and cutlery by reusable products in food services – 2021
​Waste:

Waste reduction targets for specific streams and other measures on waste prevention - 2022
 EU-wide harmonised model for separate collection of waste and labelling to facilitate separate collection - 2022
Methodologies to track and minimise the presence of substances of concern in recycled materials and articles made thereof - 2021
 Harmonised information systems for the presence of substances of concern - 2021
 Scoping the development of further EU-wide end-of-waste and by-product criteria - 2021
 Revision of the rules on waste shipments – 2021
​Jobs, regions and cities:

Skills Agenda
 Action Plan for Social Economy
 Pact for Skills
 European Social Fund Plus
 Support of the circular economy transition through Cohesion policy funds, the Just Transition Mechanism and urban initiatives - as of 2020
​Crosscutting actions:

 Synergies between the circular economy and climate change mitigation and adaptation at EU and national level - as of 2020
 Regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals - 2023
 Reflecting circular economy objectives in the revision of the guidelines on state aid in the field of environment and energy - 2021
Non-financial reporting
 Initiatives on sustainable corporate governance and on environmental accounting - 2020/2021
​Global level:

 Leading efforts towards reaching a global agreement on plastics - as of 2020
Global Circular Economy Alliance
 discussions on an international agreement on the management of natural resources - as of 2021
 Mainstreaming circular economy objectives in free trade agreements, in other bilateral, regional and multilateral processes and agreements, and in EU external policy funding instruments - as of 2020
​Monitoring:

 Update of the Circular Economy Monitoring Framework (indicators on resource use, including consumption and material footprints) - 2021
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