Driving circular economy: Europe’s path to strategic autonomy in the wake of EU Elections

By Jean Hornain, CEO of CITEO

As the EU prepares for a new mandate, Citeo advocates 11 measures aimed at developing an environmental and sovereign economic model for Europe.

The forthcoming European elections, to be held between 6 and 9 June, will be a pivotal moment for Europe to reaffirm its influential role. This juncture underscores our collective commitment to fortify and advance towards shared objectives outlined in the European Treaties.

At Citeo, with over 30 years of experience as a leading Producer Responsibility Organisation overseeing Extended Producer Responsibility for household packaging and graphic paper, we recognize the Union’s dedication to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the quality of the environment.

Reflecting what has been undertaken since 2019, it’s clear that the Green Deal, spearheaded by the European Commission, stands as transformative action.

The Commission’s ambitious agenda aims to:

  • Reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and achieve 90% reduction by 2040 compared to 1990 levels.
  • Attain climate neutrality for the continent by 2050.

Acknowledging the pivotal role of the circular economy in accomplishing these goals, the Union has designated it as fundamental to both sustainable growth and climate neutrality. The Circular Economy Action Plan outlines our roadmap for fostering circularity across product life cycles, from inception to waste management.

Through legislative proposals such as the Taxonomy Regulation, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation or the revision of the Waste Shipments Regulation, the Commission is reshaping the single market to reduce environmental impact and drive sustainable practices to: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Aligned with the Granada Declaration of 6 October 2023 of the European Council, which underscores circular economy as fundamental to the sustainability of the European economic model, circularity remains an essential part of conserving resources and bolstering industry competitiveness.

Circularity isn’t just a blueprint; it is also a prerequisite for sovereignty.

As we look ahead, decisive actions are imperative to meet climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement, this entails supporting Member States, businesses, and citizens in implementing existing legislation and advancing new initiatives.

At Citeo, we advocate for an environment and sovereign economic model, and we put forth eleven proposals to pave the way forward:

  1. Developing an ambitious regulation on packaging and packaging waste

With a harmonised framework to improve packaging circularity through the following measures:

  • Reducing packaging and plastic by avoiding unnecessary packaging.
  • Reuse, as an effective and relevant means of reducing the environmental impact.
  • Promoting high-quality recycling by harmonising the definition of recyclability, setting binding targets for recycled content and introducing a deposit return scheme.
  • Consumer information on sorting rules, with harmonised marking of sorting rules and the flexibility and adaptability of the info-tri.
  1. Giving consumers the means to promote the green transition by ensuring they have access to reliable information

By strengthening consumer empowerment and harmonizing initiatives within the EU regarding the scope of the directive, requirements for justification and communication, labelling, verification of provided information, support for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and corporate responsibility.

  1. Considering waste as new resources

By revising the waste framework directive to amend the definition of “waste”, to set mandatory and ambitious reduction targets, and make reuse an essential pillar. This revision will make it possible to introduce harmonised minimum requirements for deciding on the selective collection model to be implemented, to step up separate collection by limiting possible exemptions, to prohibit landfill, to adapt the processing hierarchy for the outermost regions, and to roll out EPR.

  1. Define a binding legislative framework for biobased and non-fossil raw materials

With a regulation on non-fossil-based raw materials as well as biobased raw materials. This framework should be applied to the entire life cycle, from production to end of life to ensure that the environmental impact is always positive.

  1. Combining circular economy and health issues

With a support framework for developing reuse enabling health issues to be fully taken into account. This issue is currently left to industry stakeholders who need a more detailed framework which could be developed by the EFSA and CEN.

  1. Extending the CBAM to support the use of European recycled materials

To address the practices of certain producers that outsource their activities to regions of the world with less stringent environmental rules. During the transition period, Citeo is calling on the European Commission to examine and adopt the option of extending the implementing scope of the CBAM to include other product categories such as polymers, glass, and paper.

  1. Opening the EU emissions trading system to other sectors

By extending the scope to municipal waste incineration plants and landfill facilities, which would contribute to the circular economy by encouraging reuse and recycling, as well as the decarbonization of all the economy.

  1. Making the circular economy a lever of the European strategic autonomy

The circular economy enables sustainable and effective resource management, a supply of raw materials closely matching requirements, more sustainable value chains, a lower carbon footprint, and support and development of the local economic fabric and jobs.

  1. Including the circular economy in the trade agreements of the EU

By explicitly mentioning these topics when implementing existing trade agreements through the dedicated monitoring committee, and also when negotiating future trade agreements through negotiation directives and the trade and sustainable development chapter.

  1. Ensuring more effective packaging waste management in Europe by developing digital tools

Particularly with the digital product passport to ensure traceability of sorted and recycled materials. The development of this tool is consistent with recent European legislative advancements, notably the CSRD directive and the Ecodesign regulation.

  1. Developing innovative education programs on circular economy

By implementing an environmental diploma at the French level to certify students’ knowledge of the environment, which could be developed.


To find out more: Citeo’s detailed proposals and the summary.