Circular Economy Package

27 Apr 2016
Adopted References: NAT/676 EESC-2016-00042-00-01-AC-TRA Referral - Rapporteur: Lohan (Various interests - GR III / Ireland) Plenary Session: 516 - 27 Apr 2016 - 28 Apr 2016 OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 98–109

EESC opinion: Circular Economy Package

Practical information

Composition of the Study group

Administrators in charge:  Andreas VERSMANN and Fabien PORCHER/ Assistant: Cécile LASZLO

Adoption foreseen for the Plenary session of 27-28 April 2016


Switching from a linear extract-transform-use-throw away economy to a circular one where waste can be turned into resources is generally seen as a positive move. It makes the economy more sustainable and reduces its environmental footprint through better resource management, reduced extraction and pollution; it also enables businesses to gain a competitive edge thanks to a better management of raw materials, while making the economy less dependent on imported – potentially critical and rare – materials; it also provides new economic opportunities and new markets, within and outside Europe, and leads to the creation of new local jobs. Policies in favour of a more circular economy typically cover all the product lifecycle, from conception to disposal, with a focus on design, waste prevention, repair, re-use and recycling.

On December 2nd, 2015, the European Commission unveiled a revised package on the circular economy. The proposals include:

  • a legislative section: more specifically a series of modifications to the European existing legislation on waste treatment and recycling;
  • a non-legislative section including a Communication Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy focusing more on the production processes, including in a number of targeted industrial sectors; it also comprises of a specific timeline for proposed measures up until 2017.

The new proposals replace the previous package which the European Commission headed by José Manuel Barroso issued in July 2014 in the framework of the EU2020 Flagship Initiative "A Resource Efficient Europe". This 2014 package introduced proposals to – among others – modify the legislation on waste by raising the recycling targets (70% for municipal waste and 80% for packing waste by 2030 with intermediate steps), ban landfilling of recyclable and biodegradable waste and phase out landfilling of all recoverable materials; it also included a reduction of food waste by 30% by 2025 and a green action plan for SMEs.

However, the Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker and First Vice-President Frans Timmermans considered the 2014 package focused too heavily on waste, did not take appropriately take into consideration the production side nor was country-specific enough. The Commission decided to withdraw the package from the legislative agenda in its 2015 work programme and committed to come forward with a more ambitious and country-specific one by the end of 2015. The new package's preparation within the Commission was coordinated by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of Sustainability, and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Growth, Jobs, Investment and Competitiveness, associating closely Commissioners Karmenu Vella (Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs).


For the period running until 2017, the non-legislative Action Plan on the Circular Economy includes:

  • a commitment to foster measures in favour of reparability, durability and recyclability in product requirements in the upcoming review of the Ecodesign Directive;
  • an independent testing programme under Horizon 2020 dedicated to planned obsolescence;
  • possible more stringent requirements for dismantling, reusing and recycling electronic devices;
  • upcoming measures for setting up a market and EU-wide standards for secondary raw materials;
  • possible new provisions on the Extended Producer Responsibility, in particular when it comes to differentiating financial contributions paid by producers;
  • targeted measures for industrial sectors such as plastics, food, critical raw materials, building and demolition, biomass and bioproducts.

In addition, the legislative proposals' main provisions are:

  • a common EU 65% target on recycling of municipal waste by 2030;
  • a common EU 75% target on recycling of packaging waste by 2030;
  • a common EU cap of landfilling to 10% ot total waste by 2030;
  • a simplification of waste definitions and hamornisation of calculation methods.

Relevant opinions adopted by the EESC:

Commission proposals:

  • Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the circular economy – COM (2015) 614 Final
  • Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste - COM (2015) 596 Final
  • Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste - COM(2015) 595 Final
  • Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste - COM(2015) 594 Final
  • Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment - COM(2015) 593 Final

Annexes to proposals: