Circular Economy in Europe: Promoting Sustainable Products and Consumption

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      Today’s world is caught in increasingly frequent and fierce geopolitical, economic, and demographic tensions and stakes that are undermining our economies. Each new crisis reveals and emphasises Europe’s external resource dependency.

      With each passing day, the competition for scarce resources is intensifying and forces us to do more with less.

      Europeans’ awareness of the scarcity of raw materials is driving economic and institutional players to hasten the implementation of a more virtuous system of consumption and recycling of goods.

      Circularity is one of the best opportunities for economies and businesses to address growing climate concerns while generating growth and new jobs.

      With the Green Deal, the EU is leading the transition towards a circular economy.

      Following the adoption in 2020 of a Regulation on Ecodesign for sustainable products and the EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, a new string of initiatives focusing on packaging is underway.

      The Ecodesign for sustainable products Regulation, which is currently being discussed in the European Parliament, will play a significant role in defining how our products are designed in the future. We need to ensure that our products are so designed as to have the longest possible life cycle and to be reusable and recyclable throughout the value chain. In other words, we need to ‘design without waste’.

       This new legislation introduces a ‘design for recycling’ approach and proposes a recyclability assessment process, with the aim of setting Europe-wide criteria for packaging design.

      One of the innovations put forth by the proposed Regulation is a new European digital product passport, which will require products to be labelled with, identified by, and linked to data relating to their circularity and sustainability.

      Furthermore, the introduction of a reparability index would allow buyers to understand how easy their products can be repaired. The establishment of a European register which lists reliable labels and allows their easy identification would contribute to effective implementation.

      The transition to a more circular economy must be based on a shock of investments in recycling, sorting and waste recovery infrastructures; an obligation for all to recycle (citizens, administrations, economic actors from all sectors); coupled with a regulatory obligation to reincorporate recycled materials. The regulatory obligation to reincorporate creates the conditions for the emergence of sustainable downstream markets for recycled materials in Europe.

      The role of local and regional authorities is of utmost importance. Business and civil society initiatives are key to realising a circular economy in Europe. Owing to the powers at their disposal, regional and local authorities are the main initiators of public procurement in Europe, which makes them an important promotion tool.

      Supporting companies in their transition towards a circular economy with the development of Public Private Partnerships in different key sectors (ICT, batteries, packaging, plastics, textiles, construction, foodstuffs), would be of great benefit.

      Europe must become the first climate neutral continent in the world while increasing the sustainability and circularity of its production and consumption patterns. We need to create the proper ecosystem that challenges us to rethink the way we procure, transform, and use the resources we need.

      Circularity is key to achieving meaningful change for our planet and is of utmost importance for securing the EU’s strategic autonomy.

      It is only by accelerating the transformation of our product and material production, consumption, and management patterns that we can work at the heart of current crises and build a more resilient Europe.

      It’s a paradigm shift that we are talking about here, which will not take place overnight, but circularity needs to become mainstream, and not the exception. What’s at stake with this shift ? Securing Europe’s long term productivity and attractiveness, in a sustainable way.



      Laurent ULMANN


      I.Enabling the green transition through an effective policy framework 

      II. Strengthening Europe’s competitiveness through better circularity of value chains

      III. Empowering consumers and creating new jobs