The plan contains various measures to accelerate the transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy in the EU. These measures include greater use of recyclates, a consumer right to repair for essential electrical and IT equipment and more stable and ecofriendly product design. In 2021, the European Commission will revise a number of legal provisions relevant for strengthening circular economy and take the Council’s position into consideration in this process.

Federal Environment Minister Schulze commented:

We have succeeded in rallying all EU member states together to support this goal of a systematic circular economy. More recycling and less consumption of resources are essential foundations for a strong and sustainable European economy.

The Environment Council is calling on the Commission, for instance, to improve product durability. To this end, the Commission is to develop new ecodesign criteria and propose information requirements to ensure that consumers can repair products more easily in future. In particular, this will affect IT and electrical equipment such as smartphones, tablets and household appliances. In addition, the Council supports measures for the more sustainable use of plastics such as increased use of deposit systems, EU-wide quotas for the use of recyclates in certain products and the swift restriction of plastic waste exports to third countries.

The European Commission published the Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020 as an important element of the European Green Deal. It contains 35 measures aimed at decoupling economic growth from the use of resources and keeping resource consumption within planetary boundaries. The plan will thus make an important contribution to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and help ensure the EU’s competitiveness in the long term.

In the waste sector, the focus is on further strengthening the waste hierarchy (1. waste prevention, 2. re-use, 3. recycling, 4. other recovery, 5. disposal). Tools to achieve this include making greater use of extended producer responsibility, increasing investments in sorting and recycling facilities in Europe and promoting demand for high-quality recyclates. In addition, landfilling of untreated municipal waste is to be brought to an end as swiftly as possible across the EU. Several countries, including Germany, have had a landfill ban in place for a few years already.

The Commission will now gradually present its proposals for measures to achieve circular economy. These will include the revision of existing legal provisions, new draft laws and also new strategy papers. In this process, the Commission will take the position and comments of the Council into consideration.

In December 2020 the European Commission presented its proposal on the new legislative framework for batteries. In 2021, the Commission is expected to present a revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation, updated concentration limits for persistent organic pollutants in waste, a new sustainable product policy initiative, a recyclable electronics initiative and a revision of the Packaging Directive. Once the Commission proposals have been presented, they will be discussed by both the European Council and Parliament.