Resource efficiency lies at the heart of a modern, competitive, sustainable economy. Businesses facing higher, more volatile resource prices are looking to eco-innovation for answers. By using assets such as energy, water, land and steel more efficiently – and indeed turning to waste as a resource – they can cut back their bills and environmental footprint.
To build on the notion of green growth, the previous European Commission tabled a circular economy package that proposed new, more ambitious recycling targets, a ban on landfilling recyclable materials by 2025, goals on food waste and marine litter, and a requirement to set up separate bio-waste collection systems. The Commission also envisaged introducing an early warning system to improve member state compliance with waste goals and minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility.
All this was met by a mix of satisfaction and trepidation by Member States and MEPs. They started discussing the proposals until the new Commission proposed to withdraw and replace them with a new, «broader and more ambitious» proposal this year. This has caused consternation among NGOs – which accuse the Commission of a deregulation agenda – and concern among industries in the waste management sector – which had looked to the new legislation to unlock new business opportunities.
The big question now is what direction a new proposal might take. Will it seek more to facilitate rather than regulate? If so, through what means? With what chances of success? And with what implications for the environment and economy? Will it do more to unite Europe’s industrial and environmental policy agendas? Are high-level decision-makers convinced resource efficiency really is an economic opportunity? If not, what can make it so? How can Europe capitalise on the circular economy?