European Union working on new sustainability standards

The EU Commission wants less waste and more sustainability within the European Union.

According to data from the EU Commission, 489 kg of municipal waste per capita were generated in the EU in 2018 and 173 kg of packaging waste per capita were generated in the EU in 2017.
At the same time almost two thirds of electronic waste is not recycled, and on top of that the EU produces two percent more of it every year.

As part of the European Green Deal the EU announced “a new Circular Economy Action Plan setting the course of EU initiatives on the circular economy in the coming years”. The plan is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2020 and a roadmap can be found here.

According to the roadmap „waste generated in Europe between 2010 and 2016 increased by 5%. The majority of this waste does not go back to the economy as a resource. Despite the steady progress in increasing recycling rates, still half of municipal waste is incinerated (27%) or landfilled (23%). In addition, the EU exports millions of tonnes of waste abroad, sometimes with negative environmental and public health consequences in the countries of final destination, while resources for the circular economy domestically are lost.”

A draft of the Action plan titled “A new Circular Economy Action Plan – For a clearner and more competitive Europe” was leaked. The document points out, that “66% of CO2 emissions are directly related to materials management”, saying “circularity is a major driver of climate neutrality”. Therefore, the commission aims “to absolutely decouple growth from resource use, we must change the way we produce, market, consume and trade, and the way we deal with waste,”.

Cutting municipal waste by half

One of the main objectives of the EU’s circular economy agenda is a commitment to significantly cut waste.

“The amount of residual municipal waste should be halved in the coming decade,” the document states.
“By 2030, only safer, circular, and sustainable products should be placed on the EU market,” .

However, it is rather unlikely that the plan will be implemented in this way, because in the coming months the Commission will have to negotiate the details of the plan with the European Parliament and the Council of EU countries. It should then be weakened in many places, not least due to pressure from industrial interest groups.

The road to more sustainability within the EU

The plan includes for example:

  • Development of a European Circular Dataspace will be developed – electronic product passport
  • Establish “right-to-repair” in EU consumer policies, assuring consumers about the availability of “affordable repair services” and spare parts
  • Introduction of standard charger for mobile phones and an EU-wide return system
  • New legislation on packaging waste, including essential requirements for packaging
  • Updated rules on batteries and end-of-life vehicles to ensure high recycling rates for electric cars (increase the recycling rate of batteries and abolish non-rechargeable energy storage)
  • Stricter verification and labeling rules to ensure bio-based plastics produce genuine environmental benefits.
  • A “comprehensive EU strategy” for textiles and clothing, aimed at stimulating the market for circular textiles (only less than one percent of all materials that are used in clothing is recycled back into clothing)
  • Making drinkable tap water accessible in public places to reduce dependence on bottle water
  • A “comprehensive strategy for a sustainable built environment” in order to tackle “embodied carbon” in construction products
  • Promoting circular global value chains in trade discussions, with a “global agreement on plastics” addressing product design and waste management (microplastics)

Read the full document here.

Such an agenda would also be necessary on a global level. If we don’t change our consumer behavior, in 2050 “the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles” expects the United Nations. The World Bank predicts that global garbage production would increase by 70 percent over the same period.

High time for change, high time to be collective green!

By Stefan Simon for COLLECTIVE GREEN