Despite resource efficiency improving 41% between 2000 and 2016,with the Circular Economy Package and the initiatives set out in the accompanying Action Plan nearing completion, the EU institutions must acknowledge that the move to a more resource efficient or “circular” economy will take time. To invest in new business models, more resource-efficient processes and new supply chains for good quality secondary materials, businesses need the assurance that the resource efficiency agenda will remain a priority for the EU in the long term.
This briefing sets out a range of policy recommendations that the Aldersgate Group believe EU institutions should continue to pursue beyond completion of the Circular Economy Package to scale up business action on resource efficiency. These recommendations are based on business case studies, including some developed as part of the EU LIFE+ funded REBus project, which began in 2013 and on which the Aldersgate Group is a partner. By the end of 2016, pilots taking part in the REBus project (many of which involved SMEs), had already delivered a financial benefit of €5.62m, material savings in excess of 62,000 tonnes and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of just under 2,000 tonnes. These benefits have continued to grow since.
Recommendations based on the report's findings include:
- Pursuing work to include resource efficiency design criteria in product standards by delivering on the commitment to publish an updated Ecodesign Working Plan once a year and rapidly broadening the range of products subject to resource efficiency design criteria;
- Promote business innovation on resource efficiency, through continued financial support for business trials and broadening the sectors that receive technical support through the Commission’s Innovation Deals;
- Expand the use of circular economy criteria in the public procurement of a broadening range of products and encourage their application across EU Member States and EU institutions;
- Encourage Member States to develop pricing mechanisms that support material re-use where it is environmentally effective to do so; and
- Ensure a consistent implementation of the Circular Economy Package in different Member States. This is especially important in terms of the improved definitions of “waste” currently being negotiated by all three EU institutions, which must ensure that materials are no longer classified as “waste” when they can be re-used safely.