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Circular economy

A circular economy is a system which maintains the value of products, materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible, and minimises the generation of waste. This means a system where products are reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled.

Actions on the circular economy also contribute to other key EU priorities, including a green recovery, climate mitigation and energy savings, biodiversity protection, and global efforts on sustainable development.

In 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious circular economy action plan. It announced 54 measures along the entire lifecycle of products to accelerate EU’s transition towards a circular economy. All these measures have been adopted.

Amongst other measures, revised EU legislation on waste entered into force in 2018. It set out clear recycling targets and a long-term plan for modern waste management. This included:

  • targets for recycling of municipal and packaging waste;
  • binding targets to reduce landfill to a maximum limit;
  • measures to reduce food waste and marine litter.

Also in 2018 there were further initiatives such as an EU strategy on plastics, a report on critical raw materials in the circular economy, rules on single-use plastics and proposed legislation on minimum requirements for water reuse (adopted in 2020).

In March 2020, as a core building block of its 2019 European Green Deal to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy, restore biodiversity and cut pollution, the Commission adopted a new circular economy action plan for the EU. This includes measures to:

  • make sustainable products the norm in the EU;
  • give more power to consumers and public buyers;
  • focus on the sectors that use most resources and where the potential for circularity is high, such as:
    • electronics and ICT,
    • batteries and vehicles,
    • packaging, plastics and textiles,
    • construction and buildings,
    • food, water and nutrients;
  • ensure less waste;
  • make the circular economy work for people, regions and cities;
  • lead global efforts on circular economy.