Brussels’ ambitious plan for a Europe-wide circular economy

During the weekly meeting of the College of the European Commission at EU headquarters in Brussels on March 30, 2022.

End the model where a consumer buys a product, uses it, breaks it down or gets tired of it, then throws it away. This is the ambition of the vast plan for a circular European economy presented by the European Commission on Wednesday 30 March. Gone are the smartphones that we get rid of because the battery no longer works and it is not possible to replace it or the little cheap sweater that “fast fashion” has already gone out of fashion. From handbags to scanners, through solar panels or building materials, nothing should escape this sustainability objective.

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“We need big changes in the way we produce and consume. We must have products that are durable, recyclable, repairable and made with this in mind. It’s good for the climate, for energy savings, for consumers and it’s the future of our economy.” insists Frans Timmermans, the Vice-President of the Commission in charge of the Grean Deal (“Green Deal”).

“Consume better and less”

If the European Union wants to respect the Paris climate agreement and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, “We are going to have to consume better and less”, insists Didier Reynders, the justice commissioner. The imperative of sobriety which was hitherto absent from European discourse is now displayed. The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, with soaring energy prices, have prepared people’s minds, the community executive wants to believe. “By 2030, the circular economy package presented on Wednesday can save Europeans the equivalent of the gas they buy from Russia”says the Commission.

This text also provides for the imposition of obligations on manufacturers with regard to unsold

In this context, the Commission has prepared a regulation “on the eco-design of sustainable products” which must supervise, in order to green it, the production of almost all goods – with the exception of food and pharmaceutical products – whether they were manufactured in Europe or elsewhere. It will therefore have to meet a series of criteria in terms of energy efficiency, but also durability, repairability, and environmental and climate footprint. “The design of a product determines up to 80% of its impact on the environment”explains the Commission.

This text also provides for the imposition of obligations on manufacturers with regard to unsold items: they will have to say what they do with them and the Commission may decide to prohibit their destruction. In this context, Europe will have to acquire capacities for recycling, repair and second-hand sales. “These activities are expected to create 30 to 200 times more jobs than landfilling and incineration”notes the Commission.

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