Reducing waste and easing pressure on raw materials makes development of a circular economy one of the fundamental cornerstones of a sustainable economy. 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress is caused by raw material extraction and material processing, according to the European Commission.
The Commission first proposed circular economy measures back in 2014, with the new Circular Economy Action Plan published by the Commission on 11 March 2020, aiming to address resource consumption and reduce environmental pressures driven by consumption. Reusing and recycling are key to tackling global waste issues, and stronger legislative requirements on waste management and reparability are setting more ambitious targets for plastic recycling and reducing waste from electrical and electronic equipment.
The Circular Economy Action Plan confirms the EU's intention to halve municipal waste by 2030 and proposes "right to repair" rules. Stricter eco-design measures covering phones, tablets and laptops will set technical standards to ensure that these goods consist of changeable and repairable parts. Some companies will face restrictions on material use for the first time; consumer-facing businesses are already under pressure to reduce over-packaging, plastic use, or hazardous substance content. Modifications made in response to such pressure should be supported by lifecycle analysis, to avoid unintended consequences such as increased shipping costs (and carbon emissions) from use of heavier packaging materials. In making mandatory corporate filings or voluntary CSR reports on the adoption of such measures, it also pays to get the messaging right in relation to measures taken.
In July 2020, the UK published a statement of intent for UK implementation of the measures set out in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan post-Brexit, referred to in that statement as the Circular Economy Package. The line-by-line transposition plan that accompanied the UK's statement shows that the UK will replicate almost all of the EU's new Circular Economy Action Plan, including a limit of 10 per cent municipal waste to landfill by 2035, a ban on separately collected waste going to landfill or incineration and restrictions on the materials that can be sent for landfill or incineration. With this commitment, plus the Resources and Waste Strategy, 25 Year Environment Plan and Environment Bill set to make the UK a resource-efficient, high recycling nation.