report shows EU member states moving towards waste-free economy

Research by, the European green business association with more than 3,000 members, shows that the unique character of EU Member States is reflected in their paths towards a “circular economy”, with the presence of leadership and inspiring examples of good practice for preventing waste, which are necessary preconditions for an effective transition. For instance:

  • Green Deal Circular Procurement in the Netherlands has directed over € 100 million in procurement done circular.
  • France has 20 extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in 14 sectors, with a 20 per cent share of recycled materials used and over 80 per cent of SMEs minimising waste.
  • Sweden pushes reuse with a low VAT rate and income tax reduction for certain repairs.
  • Italy has increased its municipal waste recycling rate from 17 to 45 per cent since 2001.
  • Portugal has introduced a broad policy mix including many EPR schemes.

However, leading countries typically have also a long way to go with high amounts of municipal waste generated per person, which vary between 260 and 780 kg per year. 

“Member States are key to create an enabling policy framework that substantially supports companies to switch to circular business models” says Manfred Mühlberger, President of Ecopreneur. “A proven way to kickstart the circular economy is to generate demand by launching a “green deal” between the government, cities and companies on green public procurement.”  These deals include an accompanying training programme where purchasing managers learn how to procure in a circular way. Public-private partnerships (“hubs”) assisting SMEs and leading companies to develop circular products and services help to generate supply.

A growing number of Member States has developed roadmaps for the transition to a circular economy (for a comprehensive overview, view the EESC research on Circular Economy Roadmaps). They provide economic incentives with EPR fees in a growing number of sectors and tax reductions such as low VAT rates for repair services and re-sold products.

Recommended next steps by include a tax shift from labour to resources and steering investments away from municipal waste incineration to waste prevention and recycling. An important role for the EU is to develop a stronger supporting programme and secure the alignment and harmonisation of policies. 

The final report, which includes new infographics and comments received on a draft published in May, is accessible here.