The EU plan for the circular economy, a sustainable “revolution”

Limited resources and climate change require a shift from a “production-consumption-waste” society to a zero-carbon, environmentally sustainable, toxic-free, and fully circular economy by 2050. The circular economy would cut CO2 emissions, while stimulating economic growth and creating job opportunities.

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption based on sharing, lending, reusing, repairing, reconditioning, and recycling existing materials and products. This extends the life cycle of products, helping to reduce waste to a minimum.

We are facing an increase in the demand for raw materials and at the same time a scarcity of resources: many of the raw materials and resources essential to the economy are limited, but the world population continues to grow and consequently the demand for these finite resources also increases.

Thanks to measures such as waste prevention, ecodesign and material reuse, European companies would achieve savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The production of the materials we use every day is responsible for 45% of CO2 emissions.

Starting in March 2020, after a series of actions and measures, in March 2022, the EU Commission published the first package of measures to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Proposals include scaling up sustainable products, empowering consumers for the green transition, revising the Construction Products Regulation and a strategy on sustainable textiles.

In November 2022, the Commission proposed new EU-wide rules on packaging. These include a proposal to improve the design of packaging, provide it with clear labelling and incentivise reuse and recycling. The proposal also includes a transition to bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics.

Circularity and sustainability must be integrated at all stages of the value chain to achieve a fully circular economy: from design, to production, to the consumer. The European Commission’s Action Plan set out seven key areas essential for achieving a circular economy: plastics; textile; electronic waste; food and water; packaging; batteries and vehicles; buildings and constructions.