Do you use electronics, batteries, packaging, plastics, textiles, buildings or food/water in your supply chain? READ ON – Part 2 on MAINSTREAMING CIRCULARITY.
These are the value chains considered by the European Commission (Commission) as requiring urgent, comprehensive and coordinated actions to transition to a sustainable global economic system.
This is Part 2 of this series, see our blog for Part 1 for more context: https://bit.ly/givvmainstreamp1
Electronics and ICT – This is one of the fastest growing waste streams with less than 40% of electronic waste recycled in the EU. Suppliers of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, printers and cartridges are facing regulatory measures to extend the lifespan of their products. Other strategies include a ‘right to repair’ and ‘right to update’ old software, common chargers across different devices, a decoupling of chargers from new devices, a take back scheme for old devices and restrictions on using hazardous substances.
Batteries and vehicles – The Commission is keen to move quickly on enhancing the sustainability of the battery value chain to promote electro-mobility and will propose a new regulatory framework which includes rules on recycled content, collection and recycling rates, the recovery of valuable materials and phasing out non-rechargeable batteries. It will also look at the carbon footprint of battery manufacturing, ethical sourcing of raw materials and security of supply.
Packaging – The volume of packaging continues to grow and sits at a staggering 173kg per person. Mandatory requirements include target setting and waste prevention measures to curb overpackaging and packaging waste, designing for re-use and recyclability and using simple packaging materials. They will also introduce better labelling to facilitate the correct separation of packaging waste, as well as more accessible drinkable tap water across cities and towns to reduce the dependence on plastic bottles.
Plastics – Despite serious public concern, consumption of plastics is expected to DOUBLE in the next 20 years. The Commission is implementing a comprehensive set of initiatives which relate to mandatory recycled content in products such as packaging, construction materials and vehicles, addressing microplastics in the environment, marine plastic pollution and the sourcing, labelling and use of bio-based, biodegradable or compostable plastics to ensure genuine environmental benefits so as not to mislead consumers.
Textiles – Less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new textiles. The textiles industry is among the most intensive users of primary raw materials and among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. The Commission is proposing a comprehensive textiles strategy that includes developing eco-design measures, easy access to reuse and repair services, incentives to develop product-as-a-service models, high levels of separate collection of textiles waste (a 2025 target) and better sorting, reuse and recycling.
Construction and buildings – The construction sector accounts for over 35% of total waste in Europe. It is estimated that materials extraction, manufacturing of building products and construction and renovations of buildings emit 5-12% of greenhouse gases. The industry is facing the possible introduction of recycled content requirements, a self-reporting framework to rate buildings against sustainability targets, life-cycle assessments in public procurement, carbon reduction targets, demolition recovery targets and initiatives to reduce soil sealing and increase the circular use of excavated soils.
Food, water and nutrients – An estimated 20% of total food produced is lost or wasted in Europe which is why the Commission is proposing a target on food waste reduction. To promote more sustainable food distribution and consumption, it is considering legislative initiatives to substitute single-use packaging, tableware and cutlery with reusable products in food services. A new water reuse regulation will also facilitate circular approaches to water reuse in agriculture.
The Commission’s Action Plan for the Circular Economy comes at a time when the impact of the COVID-19 global health crisis is unfolding daily and at frightening speed. There is no question this is an extremely difficult time for Europe and its economy (and, indeed, the rest of the world).
But Europe is resilient, and European businesses are frontrunners in sustainability and circular innovations. They are acutely aware of the leading role they play in informing a global transition to a just, climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy.
Once the threat of this immediate crisis has passed, they will bounce back, their voice even stronger to drive systemic, deep and transformative change in Europe and across the globe. While at times this will be disruptive, this disruption will pale in comparison to the future devastating impacts on the planet and its people if we don’t take this action now.
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