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Action plan European Commission: Circular Economy

In December 2015 the European Commission presented an EU action plan for the Circular Economy - Closing the loop. The former European Commission also presented an action plan in 2014, but the new Commission took back the plan and introduced a new plan. The former plan was more ambitious, but the new one is more realistic. Since the moment of the introduction of the plan a lot has been written about the circular economy.

The Commission stated that a circular economy starts at the very beginning of a product's life. Both the design phase and production processes have an impact on sourcing, resource use and waste generation throughout a product's life. A better design can make products more durable or easier to repair, upgrade or remanufacture. It can help recyclers to disassemble products in order to recover valuable materials and components. Overall, it can help to save precious resources.

Electrical and electronic products are particularly significant in this context. Their reparability can be important to consumers and they can contain valuable materials that should be made easier to recycle (e.g. rare earth elements in electronic devices). In order to promote a better design of these products the Commission will emphasize circular economy aspects in future product design requirements under the Eco-design Directive. This objective has to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of energy-related products.

In another publication on circular economy it has been discussed that we need to think differently. A new way of thinking is 'from ownership to use'. According to the circular thoughts the current economy of buying, use and throw away needs to be stopped. A new economic system in which we no longer own products, but only use it is ideal.

What about leasing products? The producer is the owner of the product and the consumer is just paying for the use of the product.

A consumer leases a washing machine from a producer. The consumer pays per wash. The producer has an interest in a longer life of the washing machine, so it makes more money. After the lease period, the producer takes back the machine and may decide to refurbish it and put on the market again or to re-use components to be used again in other machines or to decide in the worst case for recycling the appliance.

The Circular Economy market is growing quickly. Investigations and calculations by leading research agencies show that a circulareconomy can provide the European industrymore than 600 billion dollar annually. The potential added value of an economy without waste might be more than 7 billion dollar per year and supplies about 50.000 new jobs. It is a win-win situation.

The Dutch EU presidency in the first six months of 2016 is lobbying to get an approval of the action plan ‘Closing the loop’. The industry and consumer are challenged to start with relevant initiatives for a circular economy.


Sources: Europa.eu, MT-Magazine and EllenMacArthur foundation

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