The European Union is betting big on circular economy initiatives that boost recycling and reuse while decreasing resource consumption. But ambitious policies need industry buy-in to work and they appear to be getting it already.
In March, the European Commission published the Circular Economy Action Plan, a package of initiatives that aims to double the EU’s use of recycled material this decade, increase GDP and contribute to the bloc’s climate agenda.
Among the raft of measures, the Commission wants to incentivise manufacturers to design products that last longer and can be recycled or reused, but also grant consumers a “right to repair” for their purchases.
The plan tackles a number of sectors, including electronics, plastics, buildings, packaging, batteries and textiles, the latter of which is among the biggest consumers of raw materials and a significant greenhouse gas emissions producer.
At a virtual event organised by EDANA, an association group for the nonwoven industry, Paola Migliorini, a senior Commission official who has oversight of the action plan, described how ratcheting up circularity will have an across-the-board impact.
“We are using way too many resources in respect to what we have available. Three times that one planet can give. This creates up to 90% of biodiversity loss. By 2050, waste generated could increase to 70%,” she warned.
Migliorini also explained how the strategy aims to extend eco-design principles beyond energy-intensive products and implement a “digital product passport” that will give recyclers and consumers vital information about an item’s composition.
In terms of textiles, the Commission intends to make sure EU countries collect waste textiles separately by 2025 so that they can be recycled or reused to a greater extent than they are currently.
The EU executive is also working on an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme (EPR) for textiles, under which producers would be tasked with making sure their products are disposed of in the correct manner.
EPRs are designed to incentivise producers to make their products easier to recycle or reuse, as they are held financially or physically responsible for their fate. The Commission’s textile EPR is still on the drawing board and a list of products still needs to be finalised.