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A view from Brussels on the Circular Economy

The relaunched circular economy package is a test for the Commission’s ability to deliver on objectives and new working methods.

Critics will continue to argue that lower recycling targets and absence of a full landfill ban do not match the promise of a “more ambitious” package.

The European Parliament will not only push for more stringent waste targets but could possibly leverage its demand for consideration of additional initiatives including the development of binding resource efficiency indicators or a product passport to hold companies accountable for their resource efficiency performance.

While the focus is on “push” measures which drive the collection of secondary raw materials, the European Parliament may call for more “pull” measures to create demand for secondary raw materials, for example calling for the consideration of minimum recycled content requirements.

Europe’s transition to a more circular economy faces a number of barriers and challenges. The Dutch Presidency has already expressed its desire to position Europe as a forerunner in the circular economy (CE) race, but it remains questionable whether a quick political agreement with the European Parliament can be struck. Several member states will still find it hard to meet even the lowered and more flexible targets. Ultimately it will depend on the countries whether the waste targets will be implemented successfully.

The EC made clear that the CE is as much about the economy as it is about the environment. It can only succeed if industry is on board and invests in technologies and business models that contribute to the CE. The voice of industry therefore remains critical in the debate in order to achieve a balanced and practical outcome. Indeed until now business showed very much interest and is seeing the CE as an opportunity rather than a threat.

However, the sharing economy demonstrates that the CE will be disruptive and there will be winners and losers. It will be the companies that understand the political changes and adapt quickly that will be among the winners.

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