First, what is it? 

The new Circular Economy Action Plan presented yesterday is a set of initiatives designed to help Europe transition away from a linear economic model.

It focuses on seven ‘key product value chains’: electronics, batteries and vehicles, packaging, plastics, textiles, construction, and food, water and nutrients.

What you won’t find? Targets for recycling, landfilling, etc: these have already been set during the 2018 Circular Economy Package of laws.

Here are the main action points of relevance for Urban Circular Bioeconomy enthusiasts:

  1.  Harmonised waste sorting

Efficient separate collection of waste is the foundation of high-quality recycling.

To help citizens, businesses and public authorities better separate waste, the Commission will try to harmonise separate waste collection systems across Europe, focusing on the most effective combinations of collection models.

An EU-wide labelling, to assist the correct separation of packaging waste at source, is proposed.

Other ideas such as common bin colours, harmonised symbols for key waste types, product labels, information campaigns and economic instruments will also be considered.

The Commission will also seek standardisation and the use of quality management systems to assure the quality of the collected waste destined for use in products, and in particular as food contact material.

Depending to what extent this will also cover organics, these steps should help increase the quantity and quality of biowaste collections. Quality management of collected waste could help to liberalise the use of biowaste as feedstock for food contact products.

 

  1. Promoting beneficial bio-plastics

Bio-plastics are not always well understood or perceived.

The Commission will look to address this by developing a policy framework on sustainable sourcing, labelling and use of bio-plastics by 2021.

This will ensure that bio-based feedstocks have genuine environmental benefits, going beyond the reduction of fossil resources.

Efforts will also be made to clarify the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’. They are currently considered misleading for consumers and their incorrect disposal can cause unintended negative environmental impacts.

More attention on the sustainability of bio-based plastics can help boost the use of organic waste as a feedstock, as biowaste is low impact compared to other feedstocks. Clearing up the confusion about ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ will help increase trust in the bio-plastics sector and go some way to eliminating greenwashing by plastic producers.

 

  1. Connecting circularity and climate

Circular economy could gain even more traction if better connected to climate goals.

To help with this the Commission will develop a systematic way to measure the impact of circularity on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This will include improved modelling tools to capture the benefits of the circular economy on greenhouse gas emission reduction at EU and national levels.

This will help policy makers at all levels, including cities, to strengthen the role of circular economy in their climate action plans. Reliable data and figures on the climate impacts of circularity can help justify ambitious actions to citizens and businesses alike.

 

Let’s hope these actions help to mainstream models such as being developed in SCALIBUR, to create a truly circular bioeconomy in Europe!