European Environment Agency Report: “We Are Far From A Circular Economy”

A new report from the European Environment Agency has stated that despite the environmental improvements of recent decades, we are still “far from a circular economy”.

The report states that the challenges that Europe faces today are considerable; that environmental policies are also creating economic opportunities; and that resource use across Europe has fallen and recycling increased, but that “despite recent progress in waste prevention and management, EU waste generation remains substantial, and performance relative to policy targets is mixed.”

Ot adds: “The EU appears to be progressing towards its 2020 objective of achieving a decline in waste generated per capita. But waste management will need to change radically in order to phase out completely the landfilling of recyclable or recoverable waste.”

The European Environment State and Outlook 2015 report says that the environment industry sector, which produces goods and services that reduce environmental degradation and maintain natural resources, grew by more than 50% in size between 2000 and 2011, making it one of only a few economic sectors to have flourished in terms of revenues, trade and jobs since the 2008 financial crisis.

It further summaries that “…in 2015, Europe stands roughly halfway between the initiation of EU environmental policy in the early 1970s and the EU’s 2050 vision of ‘living well within the limits of the planet’.

On resource efficiency and the low-carbon society, the report summarises that the short-term trends are more encouraging, with European greenhouse gas emissions decreasing by 19% since 1990, despite a 45% increase in economic output; fossil fuel use has declined; and emissions of some pollutants from transport and industry have also declined.

More recently, the EU’s total resource use has declined by 19% since 2007, less waste is being generated and recycling rates have improved in nearly every country.

Another positive is that the EU-28 per capita waste generation (excluding mineral wastes) declined by 7% in the period 2004–2012, from 1,943 kg/person to 1,817 kg/person (Eurostat, 2014c); and that per capita generation of municipal waste declined by 4% between 2004 and 2012, falling to 481 kg per capita.

However, the large differences in recycling rates across Europe suggest that there are significant opportunities for increased recycling in many countries; and better recycling technologies, infrastructure, and collection rates could further reduce environmental pressures and European reliance on resource imports.

The report concludes: “Despite recent progress in waste prevention and management, EU waste generation remains substantial, and performance relative to policy targets is mixed. The EU appears to be progressing towards its 2020 objective of achieving a decline in waste generated per capita. But waste management will need to change radically in order to phase out completely the landfilling of recyclable or recoverable waste…” leading it to its conclusion that despite the positives, we are “far from a circular economy”.

 

 

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