EU defines 70% recycling target for 2030 to promote circular economy

Recent EU proposals aim to boost recycling targets, create jobs in the green industries and tackle food waste in order to transform the current linear economy into a circular economy and promote sustainable growth.

Picture credits epSos

Among the stated goals: increased packaging recycling (60% by 2020, 70% by 2025, 80% by 2030). Other stated targets include 90% recycling for paper and 60% for packaging made of plastic by 2025 as well as 80% for packaging made of wood by 2030. Also for 2030: 90% recycling of all packaging consisting of iron, aluminum or glass.

According to the proposals, recyclable waste would be banned from landfills by 2025 (plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard and biodegradable waste). This ban is likely to also cover all recoverable municipal waste by 2030.Member States will be set a 30% resource efficiency target by 2030, linked to raw material consumption and gross domestic product (GDP). It is intended to encourage and improve resource productivity. The focus lies on those materials promising the most economical and environmental benefit.

Zero-waste economy and society

The new targets mean a fundamental transition from a linear to a more circular economy where re-use, repair and recycling become the norm, and waste would become a thing of the past. Of course, this requires innovation in markets for recycled materials, new business models, eco-design and industrial symbiosis.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We are living with linear economic systems inherited from the 19th Century in the 21st Century world of emerging economies, millions of new middle class consumers, and inter-connected markets. If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use."

New growth and job opportunities

The proposed vision of a framework to help the circular economy become a reality asks for policies that are better inter-linked, smart regulation and active support from research and innovation. According to the EU commission, this system would unlock investment and attract financing while promoting a strong role for business and participation by consumers. In addition, 580'000 new jobs could be created and yearly greenhouse gas emissions might be reduced by 62 million tons around the year 2030.

Picture credits Sissi de Kroon

Next Steps

The legislative proposals will now pass to the Council and the European Parliament. Research and innovation efforts in the area of circular economy will be stepped-up. The policy framework for promoting the circular economy will be further developed over the coming years.

In addition, waste legislation will be simplified, and co-operation between the Commission and Member States will be stepped up. Minimum operating conditions for extended producer responsibility schemes will be laid down. Tailor-made approaches will be implemented for specific waste streams, such as marine litter, phosphorus, construction and demolition, food, hazardous and plastic wastes.

The EU is already expected to increase its resource productivity by 15% between 2014 and 2030 under a business as usual scenario. Policies to promote the transition to a more circular economy could result in a doubling of this rate, while boosting job creation and generating further growth.

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