On the 11th of March 2020, the European Commission adopts the new Circular Economy Action Plan ‘For a Cleaner and More Competitive Europe’ to present its policy actions targeting the progressive abandonment of the mainstream linear economic model to decouple economic growth from resource use. By leading the transition toward a circular economy, the European Union can gain an unprecedented competitive advantage and generate new sustainable and green workforce, while restructuring unsafe production and consumption patterns; ultimately aligning our needs to those of our planet: as the United Nations noted, three planet Earth are needed to sustain our current consumption standards.

The new and ambitious strategy not only recognizes a causal relationship between the paradigm production-consumption-waste and the various environment and climate emergencies but also deploys a widespread set of actions combining different policy areas to face the urgent need to comply with the boundaries set by the one and only planet Earth.

 To summarize, the multifaced plan comprehends:

  • the removal of policy barriers
  • a new policy framework for products to avoid the generation of waste and enhance sustainability
  • the exploitation of standard and labelling systems to promote circular products and services
  • circular approaches focusing on product-type value chains
  • the market for high-quality secondary raw materials
  • the harmonization of the separate-waste collection system
  • the restriction of waste-shipments to third countries
  • the development of tailored monitoring frameworks to measure progress on the transition toward the circular economy
  • a strong foreign policy supporting circular economy

The Action Plan outlines the necessity to redesign the products and to reorganize the production accordingly by improving durability, reusability, reparability and remanufacturing; while increasing attention on both the type of materials used and their combinations.

The Circular Economy Action Plan intervenes under a sectorial product-related value chain approach, with dispositions delineated for:

Moreover, the circular economy transition relays on the establishment of a market for the secondary raw material, positively influencing the use of the material in the production processes, the waste collection, the reduction in waste export and the generation of value from trash, left-over and discarded materials.

To conclude, circular economy has already created 4 million new jobs in the six-year period 2012-18; that’s why the transition represents an indispensable part of the European industrial strategy and it is estimated to bring an additional GDP growth of 0,5% in 10 years.

  1. “Kaza, Silpa; Yao, Lisa C.; Bhada-Tata, Perinaz; Van Woerden, Frank. 2018. What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050. Urban Development; Washington, DC: World Bank. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/30317 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”
  2. The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics – 2016 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, World Economic Forum and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment
  3.  Eurostat data for 2016.
  4.  Estimating Employment Effects of the Circular Economy, 2018 – International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)  background note  
  5.  Cambridge Econometrics, Trinomics, and ICF (2018), Impacts of circular economy policies on the labour market.