This Committee opinion, prepared in response to the commission's request, has taken stock of the views of European stakeholders on how EU policies and regulatory action can use sustainable economic models to transition successfully towards economic modernisation by reconciling economic prosperity and efficiency, social inclusion and environmental responsibility.
The transition to a Circular Economy is high on the EESC agenda as a solution to fight the climate crisis and protect our planet. It is a great opportunity for civil society as it can help to:
- increase the competitiveness of European industry;
- promote sustainable economic growth;
- generate new jobs.
The 'take-make-waste' model of production and consumption that still dominates our economy today is not only culminating in wasted resources, but also undermining the fight against climate change. Unlike the linear economy, a Circular Economy is a regenerative and restorative design that focuses on economic value creation and retention, tackling global environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution while yielding economic benefits.
The good news is that the circular transition is already happening on the ground. Stakeholders from civil society including businesses, trade unions, academia and knowledge communities, youth organisations as well as NGOs and other interest groups are creating and implementing many circular initiatives at local and regional level. Catalysing circular solutions and leadership from relevant stakeholders is Europe's best opportunity to accelerate the transition to a Circular Economy.
As such, the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, a joint initiative of the EESC and the European Commission, is a platform established in 2017 to bring together the Circular Economy community in Europe. The stakeholder-driven platform supports Europe's transition towards a Circular Economy by fostering dialogue, sharing knowledge and exchanging best practices.
RoHS 2 addresses the waste hierarchy’s highest priority, waste prevention. Waste prevention includes measures that reduce the content of harmful substances in materials and products. Decreasing the amount of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic waste benefits the management of such waste as a result.
The objective of the Communication on the role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy is to ensure that the recovery of energy from waste in the EU is consistent with the objectives pursued in the Circular Economy Action Plan.
In this opinion, the EESC calls for society to begin an economic transition from over-exploitation of resources and a throw-away culture to a more sustainable, job-rich era, based on quality rather than quantity. In order to cope with the fundamental shift to a new economic model with major systemic consequences in many areas, it is recommended that a new cross-cutting and permanent body be set up in the EESC to analyse these developments.
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) believes that the prospect of a European circular economy should bring a major boost to the systemic competitiveness of the EU, a driver for growth and a generator of new green jobs and skills.
The Committee welcomes the two communications and the package of amendments to the waste directives and supports the campaign to make all businesses and consumers aware of the need to phase out the current linear economic model of "take, make, consume and dispose" .
Planned obsolescence is associated with a form of industrial production that relies on a minimum renewal rate for its products. Although product renewal is necessary, certain abuses need to be addressed. The EESC would like to see a total ban on products with built-in defects designed to end the product's life.