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Delivering on European Circular Economy Action Plan: the EU’s results for 2017

Eugene Eteris, RSU/BC, Riga, 12.09.2017.Print version
About three years ago, the Commission adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Plan which included proposals on wastes with recycling and landfill reduction targets, and some measures to be taken by the end of 2019. In 2017, the Commission reported to the European Parliament and the Council on progress towards sustainable economy.

The EU institutions, including that of the Commission, the Council, the European Investment Bank, etc. continued delivering on the Circular Economy Action Plan. This includes the presentation of a strategy for plastics in the circular economy, an assessment of options for the improved interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation, a legislative proposal on water reuse and a monitoring framework on circular economy.

 

Thus, the following results have been reached during 2017:

= Legislative proposals on waste, which was made by the Commission at the end of 2015, included: a common EU target for recycling 65 % of municipal waste by 2030; a common EU target for recycling 75 % of packaging waste by 2030; a binding target to reduce land-filling to maximum of 10 % of municipal waste by 2030. Note: according to Latvian sources, there are about 30 “unidentified” land-waste deposits as to September 2017.

= Eco-design working plan for 2016-2019, adopted by the Commission in November 2016. The Plan was based on the new approach introduced by the Commission focusing efforts on the product groups with the highest potential in terms of energy and resource savings, further reinforcing the evidence base for regulatory action and expanding the focus of future eco-design measures beyond energy efficiency to possible circular product requirements such as durability, reparability, upgradeability, design for disassembly, information, and ease of reuse and recycling.

= Establishing a Circular Economy Finance Support Platform, bringing together innovators and investors to find financing solutions for circular economy projects.

= Action on Food Losses and Food Waste, including an EU Platform which was established in August 2016, to bring together stakeholders and identify best practices; and making preparations of EU guidelines on food donation and the use of foodstuff as feed.

= Legislative proposal on fertilisers, made by the Commission in March 2016, helping to create a genuine internal market for fertilizers from secondary raw materials, by harmonising EU rules for products derived from organic waste and by-products, and by providing rules for the recovery of nutrients for secondary raw materials.  

= Launch of the Innovation Deals, creating a pilot approach to provide practical help to innovators in overcoming perceived regulatory obstacles and ambiguities, e.g. in water, waste or energy innovations.

= Legislative proposal on online sales of goods, tabled by the Commission in December 2015, aimed at strengthening guarantees for consumers, protecting them better against defective products and contributing to durability and reparability of products.  

= Horizon 2020 call for proposals on “Industry 2020 in the circular economy”, with €650 million investment for 2016-17 to finance innovative demonstration projects for circular economy and industrial competitiveness.

= Industry-wide Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol, to improve the identification, separation at source and collection of waste, as well as logistics, processing, and quality management.

= Guidance documents in the areas of water reuse and green public procurement.

= Integrating circular economy into Best Available Techniques Reference Documents (BREFs) for several industrial sectors, in order to reduce waste generation, boost recycling and reduce resource use, increasing the sustainability and competitiveness in the industries covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive.

= Revision of guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, to address false, unclear, unintelligible, or ambiguous information, including claims related to the circular economy.

= Waste Shipment Regulation: a new tool on waste codes is available to customs officials to help identify waste crossing illegally EU borders as non-waste. The new measure is also expected to prevent the leakage of valuable raw materials out of the EU.

 

Commission’s next measures

Commission’s efforts on the Circular Economy Action Plan, included presentation of a strategy for plastics in the circular economy, an assessment of options for the improved interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation, a legislative proposal on water reuse and a monitoring framework on circular economy.

 

The strategy for plastics will improve the economics, quality and low rate of plastic recycling and reuse, it will address the significant leakage of plastics into the environment, in particular the oceans, and the high dependence on fossil-fuel as feedstock (more than 90 % of plastics today are still produced from fossil fuel feedstock).

 

The initiative addressing the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation will notably address the traceability of substances of concern in products and their traceability in recycled materials and difficulties in the application of EU waste classification methodologies.

The legislative proposal on water reuse will set minimum requirements for reused water for irrigation and aquifer recharge. It aims to encourage efficient resource use and reduce pressures on the water environment and increase the recycling of nutrients contained in waste water. It will complement the existing EU water policy.

 

The circular economy monitoring framework will assess progress towards a more circular economy and the effectiveness of action at EU and national level. The monitoring framework will build on existing EU Scoreboards on Resource Efficiency and on Raw Materials, and include other meaningful indicators that capture the main elements of the circular economy. It will be aligned with the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Financing support platform: new actions in circular economy

The Platform will bring together representatives of the Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB), National Promotional Banks and institutional investors. The Commission hopes that it will include member state ministries, NGOs and etc.

 

The platform includes a three-pillar structure to facilitate circular economy’s financing:

= Pillar I: Rising Circular Economy coordination and awareness. This will identify opportunities, raise awareness and share best practices amongst potential project promoters and other stakeholders. Furthermore, it will analyse the characteristics of circular economy projects and their particular financing needs, provide general recommendations on structuring and improving bankability of circular economy projects, and coordinate activities regarding financing of the circular economy. It will also disseminate information on financing of and investments in the circular economy.

= Pillar II: Advisory efforts in Circular Economy. As a first step, the capacities and capabilities of existing advisory services in the EIB like the Innovation Finance Advisory, European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and EIB in-house experts, as well as existing advisory services outside the EIB, will be mobilised. It will focus on providing support to development and structuring of projects and improving their bankability. The advisors will provide financial and technical expertise to potential Circular Economy project promoters, and proactively make potential project promoters aware of financing opportunities.

= Pillar III: Financing Circular Economy. Existing Commission and EIB financial instruments (e.g. the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and InnovFin EU Finance for Innovators initiative backed by Horizon 2020) may be used to finance circular economy projects in the member states when they meet existing eligibility criteria. In addition, if justified, the possible need for new, dedicated financial instruments for circular economy projects will be assessed. As an important step towards making the platform operational, the European Commission opened “expressions of interest” procedure for member states’ expert group that will focus on the activities under Pillar I.

 

Some new actions: (1) recovering energy from waste

Waste-to-energy encompasses various waste treatment processes which generate energy (e.g. electricity, heat or production of waste-derived fuel), each of which has different environmental impact and circular economy potential. Waste-to-energy processes can play an important role in the transition to a circular economy provided that the EU waste hierarchy is used as a guiding principle which ranks waste management options according to their sustainability and gives top priority to preventing and recycling of waste. When waste cannot be prevented, prepared for reuse or recycled, recovering the energy embedded in it and injecting it back in the economy is the next best environmental and economic option.

 

For example, in 2014, about 1.5 % of the total EU-28 final energy consumption came from incineration of waste, co-incineration in kilns and anaerobic digestion. The Commission provides guidance to the states on how to ensure properly balanced waste-to-energy capacity avoiding stranded assets.

 

(2) Restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment ("RoHS" Directive amendment). This proposal will facilitate second-hand market operations (e.g. reselling) and repair of electrical and electronic equipment. The proposal will benefit citizens and industry, for example by extending the lifetime of existing equipment, including costly medical devices, and boosting the repair and second hand market for certain types of equipment. Public authorities will benefit too, as the proposal could reduce administrative burdens and lower EU healthcare costs by an estimated €170 million by allowing hospitals to buy and sell used medical devices after July 2019.

 

The Commission also proposes two targeted exclusions from the scope of the existing RoHS Directive, without diminishing environmental protection: pipe organs, for reasons of cultural heritage, and certain non-road mobile machinery.

 

Even when waste electrical and electronic equipment is collected separately for recycling, certain hazardous substances contained in old equipment can pose risks to health and the environment. This affects workers in recycling plants in particular. The most effective way to reduce such risks is to substitute such substances in electronics and electric equipment with safer materials. Restricting the use of hazardous substances is likely to enhance the possibilities and economic profitability of recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment and decrease the negative impact on the health of workers in recycling plants.

 

More information on EU’s efforts in circular economy is in the following links: = MEMO: Circular Economy Package: Questions & Answers; = Communication: Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy; = EU action plan for the Circular Economy; = Implementation report Waste-to-Energy Communication; = RoHS Directive; = Clean Energy Package; = Communication on an eco-design working plan 2016-2019; = EU Construction and Demolition Waste Protocol; = Proposal for a Regulation on the making available on the market of fertilising products; = Green Public Procurement; = The EIB in the circular economy; = "Assessment of access-to-finance conditions for projects supporting Circular Economy" by InnovFin Advisory and EIB Advisory Services.

Reference: Circular Economy: Commission delivers on its promises, offers guidance on recovery of energy from waste and works with EIB to boost investment, 26 January 2017. In: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-105_en.htm.  

 






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