Actions to Promote the Circular Economy in Europe

In this article, we address the transition to a circular economy in Europe, highlighting advances, challenges and proposed measures to accelerate this process.

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The transition to a circular economy has become a global priority as opposed to an unsustainable linear consumption model.

For its part, Europe, shows a firm commitment to this transformation through policies and measures that adapt our economy to principles of circularity and sustainability.

Although they have made significant progress in recent years, there is still a long way to go. In this article, we will explore the advances, the challenges that persist and the future actions needed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe.

Conclusions of the Circularity Gap Report 2024

According to the annual report Circularity Gap Report, published in early 2024, 100 billion tons of materials are consumed every year.

It follows from it that only 7.2% of the world operates on a circular model, with a decrease compared to 9.1% recorded in 2018. This indicator reflects how the global economy still faces significant challenges in the transition to more sustainable production.

Along the same lines, this study also warns that 5 of the 9 key planetary boundaries have been crossed, which can be interpreted as a consequence of an overexploitation of resources.

In this context, the circularity, which involves reintegrating waste into the production chain, is presented as an essential solution to reduce dependence on resource extraction and minimise environmental impacts.

Recent Advances and Pending Challenges

Europe has made strategic progress in legislation related to the circular economy over the past five years. An example of these policies is the Action Plan for the Circular Economy (CEAP) approved by the European Commission in March 2020.

This plan It is one of the fundamental pillars of the European Green Deal, Europe's new agenda for sustainable growth. In addition, it is a prerequisite for achieving the EU's climate neutrality goal for 2050 and stop the loss of biodiversity.

However, to realise these goals, it is imperative to address the obstacles inherent to the EU's dependence on global imports of critical raw materials and fossil fuels, a situation that is intensifying in an increasingly complex geopolitical context. In this regard, on March 18, 2024, the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) was approved. A legislative milestone that promotes the search for strategic autonomy in the European Union. This regulation incorporates an objective related to circularity, which aims to meet the  15% of annual consumption of strategic raw materials of the EU through national recycling capacity.

The idea behind these measures is that the Circular economy helps to decouple economic growth from resource use, thus protecting Europe's natural resources and at the same time promoting sustainable growth.

It is now necessary that these policies are more binding and are oriented to specific objectives to accelerate the transition.

In addition, although Europe consumes a higher proportion of recycled materials compared to other regions of the world, progress towards greater circularity has been slow, and we are still far from achieving the ambition to double the Union's circularity rate by 2030.

Accelerating the circular economy in Europe

The report of the European Environment Agency (EEA), published in March 2024, on the state of the circular economy, highlights the need for go beyond the current approach to waste management to directly address resource use. While there has been a slight decoupling of EU resource consumption from economic growth in recent years, with a slight decline in total material consumption as the EU's gross domestic product (GDP) increased, significant challenges remain.

The report highlights the urgency to implement stronger circular economy policies. The need to reduce resource consumption and move towards an economy that is less dependent on materials is highlighted. To achieve greater efficiency in the use of existing products, it is essential to increase both the intensity of use per item and their durability, both technical and real.

It is also emphasised that the large scale success of a The circular economy requires significant reuse of high quality secondary raw materials. However, it is recognised that the challenge goes beyond European borders; a strong governance framework is needed at the global level to address the unsustainable use of resources and promote the circular economy effectively.

Future Actions to Boost the Circular Economy

To accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe, decisive and focused measures are needed. The EEA report identifies several key actions that can promote greater circularity and reduce dependence on external resources:

Establishing Clear Objectives and Goals

It is essential to establish binding objectives and targets for the use of resources and the rate of circularity. This would provide clear direction for policies and encourage investment in circular practices and technologies. In addition, one could consider promoting the economy of high-quality recycling, where materials retain their original function and value for as long as possible.

Promoting Eco-Design and Durability

Encouraging eco-design and durability of products is essential to maximise their useful life and minimise waste generation. Policies that encourage the manufacture of more durable and repairable products can contribute significantly to reducing waste and promoting a more circular economy.

Consideration of Environmental Impacts on Material Prices

It is crucial to review material prices to adequately reflect their environmental impacts. This could involve the application of environmental taxes or fees that encourage the use of recycled materials and penalise the use of non-renewable resources.

Promotion of Research and Innovation

Investment in research and development of circular technologies is essential to promote innovation and find sustainable solutions to current challenges. Supporting collaboration between the public and private sectors in areas such as advanced recycling, remanufacturing and waste management can generate significant advances in the circular economy.

Education and Awareness-raising

Education and public awareness are key to changing behaviors and promoting a more sustainable lifestyle. Awareness-raising campaigns about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling can inspire citizens to adopt more responsible practices and contribute to the success of the circular economy.


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