Europe needs to step up circular economy efforts – EEA says



The European Environment Agency (EEA) says the pace of the EU’s circular economy action plan needs “speeding up” to achieve its goal of doubling the share of recycled materials used in the European economy by 2030.

The assessment stresses that enhanced recycling will speed up this progress but it needs to be complemented with reducing the overall material inputs to meet the target of doubling the share of recycled waste in the use of materials by 2030.

A second, in-depth report on waste prevention highlights opportunities for a “stronger and systemic” approach to monitoring progress at the EU level.

The EEA briefing “How far is Europe from reaching its ambition to double the circular use of materials?” shows that, in 2021, about 11.7% of all materials used in the EU came from recycled waste, up from 8.3% in 2004.

It states that getting closer to the target could be achieved by increasing the recycling rate of all treated waste from the current 40% to 70%, decreasing overall material inputs by 15%, and reducing the amount of fossil fuels used by 34%.

Earlier this week, the European Commission published a revised circular economy monitoring framework.

The briefing also calls for more focus on non-metallic minerals, such as construction materials, as the EEA says these account for about half of all materials used in the EU.

The EEA says that waste prevention is one of the key strategies to achieving a circular economy because it can reduce resource use, maximise the useful life of products and materials and promote demand for more sustainable products.

The Agency claims it remains difficult to establish a link between waste prevention policies and waste generation in the EU.

The EEA analysis “Tracking waste prevention progress” proposes a new set of indicators to monitor long-term trends in waste prevention. The indicators focus on the drivers of waste generation, waste prevention policies enablers and resulting outcomes in reduced waste and emissions.

However, the EEA says to put this monitoring framework in full use will require more specific data and information collected across the EU in a systematic and harmonised way.

Earlier this week, the European Commission published a revised circular economy monitoring framework to help improve tracking progress in the transition to a circular economy in the EU and considers how it can contribute to climate neutrality, resilience and global sustainability.

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