Sustainable Prosperity for Europe

Circular economy and smarter use of resources

Europe is in the midst of a serious crisis. That crisis has two faces, economic and ecological, which are intertwined and reinforce one another. And at the heart of this double challenge is the unsustainable use of our resources.

It is clear that sustainable growth is built on being smarter with the resources we have in Europe: how we produce, consume and manage our resources and waste. In this context, the circular economy model provides an attractive alternative to the existing ‘take-make-consume and dispose’ approach. The evidence-base on the related economic, social and environmental benefits is growing by the day. For example, increasing the re-use, recycling, repair and refurbishment of products could reduce EU’s resource dependence, boost innovation, help to create new business models and have a positive impact on jobs, growth and competitiveness.

The EPC has over the years followed closely developments linked to the Commission’s work on Resource-efficient Europe and circular economy, contributing to the discussions with multi-stakeholder debates and publications. In 2011, the EPC’s multi-stakeholder Task Force on Eco-efficiency looked at the possibilities with resource efficiency and eco-innovation in Europe, considered the barriers that needed to be tackled, and made policy recommendations for turning eco-efficiency into the next European success story. These recommendations, which included creating a market for greener products and services and taking a circular approach to the use and reuse of resources, were published in a report “Green Revolution - making eco-efficiency a driver for growth” and summarised in a Newsletter in January 2012. More recent publications contributing to the circular economy debate include a chapter on the importance of creating new business models in the issue paper “Towards a New Industrial Policy for Europe” as well as a Policy Brief on “Towards a sustainable European economy”. In addition, the EPC Task Force on Blue Gold that looked at ways of managing the water challenge in and outside the EU, considered also reuse and recycling of water and the findings and the recommendations for policy-makers can be found in the publication of November 2015. The EPC will be launching a Task Force on a “Digital Roadmap for a Circular Economy” in the Autumn. The project of 12-18 months will discuss how digitalisation and innovative technologies can support the transition to a circular economy.

With its multi-stakeholder approach and cross-cutting analysis, the EPC is in a strong position to encourage discussion on smarter use of resources and work on all the constitutive elements of the circular economy, which affect various policy areas and economic actors. It will continue to promote discussion on the key elements of the European Commission’s circular economy strategy and needed EU action if the strategy is to contribute to the transition towards a more resource efficient and sustainable European economy.

The EPC’s activities on circular economy and smarter use of resources are coordinated by Annika Hedberg.

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