Recyclable garbage consisting of glass, plastic, metal and paper.

Progress report on circular economy met with caution

Progress made on the circular economy by the EU must be praised but several aspects of the strategy remain incomplete, NGOs warn.

The European Commission announced this week that Europe is fully on track to complete the transition to a circular economy, where waste is avoided and all valuable materials recycled.

The statement follows the publication by the Commission of a report on the implementation of the ‘Circular Economy Action Plan’, which was released in December 2015 and sketched out a series of measures to be discussed and adopted.

Speaking at a conference with businesses and NGOs on the circular economy in Brussels yesterday, the EU’s top environment official Karmenu Vella said:

“When we launched the Circular Economy Action Plan in 2015, we announced 54 actions. Almost without exception, we’ve delivered on all those actions, converting the good intentions into tangible practices on the ground.”

NGOs welcomed the report but said it’s too early to jump to conclusions.

Europe is leading the way on the global transition to a circular economy, said the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations. The group praised unprecedented measures to reduce the environmental impact of products and plastic, to empower consumers and to boost innovation and recycling targets.

But they also noted that a significant part of the planned measures has suffered from unjustifiable delays, and that many have only been investigated without developing any clear policy option.

Stephane Arditi of the EEB said that Europe is still lacking a coherent framework plan for EU product policy, which should have been achieved by 2018 according to the action plan. He also said that the Commission should have already adopted measures to prevent the proliferation of toxic substances in recycled products and to push back false claims about the environmental benefits of products. Arditi said:

“The hesitations of Juncker’s team on the circular economy explain why we haven’t been able to achieve as much as we expected from the circular economy action plan.”

“We urge the next European Commission and Parliament to engage with more courage and ambition towards the finalization of the planned actions and the discussion of the next wave of policy and economic initiatives to make the EU more circular, resilient and prosperous.”

European Commissioners will be replaced at the end of the year, following the European Parliament elections in May.