cebm policies

Introduction to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan

In December 2015, the European Commission published its Circular Economy Action Plan. The action plan looks at the whole lifecycle of products and adopts a systemic approach that promotes partnerships along the entire value chain and across different sectors. The action plan’s structure includes a mix of voluntary initiatives and regulatory actions along production, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials Further, it includes innovation, investment and monitoring themes. Finally, it identifies five priority sectors: plastics, food waste, biomass & bio-based products, critical raw materials and construction & demolition.
Four years after its adoption, the action plan can be considered fully completed. Its 54 actions have been delivered or are being implemented (even if the work on some will continue beyond 2019). In the next slide is a historical timeline listing policy milestones for the EU Action plan for CE. This section of the presentation also provides highlights from the Action Plan; a summary of the full plan can be found here. Interested parties should consult the full plan as they certainly impact a chosen business model, especially from the perspective of enablers and barriers.

Historical Timeline of EU Circular Economy Action Plan

EU Policy Highlights


Key Actions Aim of action
Ecodesign directive Explores mandatory product requirements on durability, recyclability, reusability, reparability of various products. Currently, focusing on energy efficiency.
Guidance on CE into Best Available Techniques reference documents (BREFs) for several industrial sectors The Commission identified key environmental issues to be addressed when revising BREFs including aspects on CE, issues concerning water use and reuse in the relevant BREFs and the overall contribution of the Industrial Emissions Directive to the circular economy.


Key Actions Aim of action
Fitness check of Ecolabel, to be followed by actions to enhance its effectiveness Ecolabel guides consumers to the best environmentally-performing products on the market, including on public procurement. The Commission is focusing on product categories with significant uptake rate. The EU Ecolabel catalogue has been improved to include 72,227 products and services awarded an Ecolabel.
Action on Green Public Procurement (GPP) To support GPP uptake: • The Commission published new “Buying green” handbook • Training schemes took place in 2019. • A mapping exercise identified how the uptake of GPP could be strengthened within the Commission

Waste Management

Key ActionsAim of action
Revised legislative proposal on waste

Ensure the application of circular economy principles to waste management via:

• Revised & strengthened recycling targets
• General Requirement for Extended Producer Responsibility
• Strengthen separate collection for waste
• Reduce food waste

Stepping up enforcement of revised Waste Shipment regulationSets out a preliminary correlation table between customs and waste codes which will help customs officials to identify more easily potential waste streams.

Secondary Waste Materials

Key ActionsAim of action
Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials (in particular for plastics).In order to identify standardisation needs, the Commission requested that the European Committee for Standardisation to perform a comprehensive mapping exercise of existing or ongoing standardisation work related to the treatment of waste and the quality of secondary raw materials. This includes work by industry and other organisations. The report was delivered in June 2018.
Proposed legislation setting minimum requirements for reused water for irrigation and groundwater recharge.A proposal for a Regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse was adopted on 28 May, 2018. The proposed legislation sets minimum requirements for reused water for agricultural irrigation. It aims at encouraging the safe, efficient and cost-effective reuse of treated urban wastewater, thus turning a wasted resource into a valuable one for further use.

Sectorial Action

Key Actions Aim of action
Plastics Four Strategies for future 1. Improve recycling 2. Reduce single use plastics 3. Drive investment for solutions 4. Harness global action connected to trade
Food waste Development of indicators to measure food waste; creation of stakeholders platform (in 2017) to examine how to achieve SDGs goals on food waste, share best practice and evaluate progress.
Critical raw materials (CRMs) The report on CRMs was published in 2018 to provides key data sources and, looking at eight sectors (e.g. mining, electronic equipmen, renewable energy), promotes best practices.
Construction EC designed: Pre-assessment demolition guidelines; voluntary recycling protocol for construction and demolition waste.
Biomass and bio-based materials Guidance on cascading use of biomass was published in 2018 to promote efficient use of bio-based resources through dissemination of best practices and support for innovation in the bio-economy.

Innovation and Investment

Key Actions Aim of action
Horizon 2020 funding for CE projects Two “focus areas” were dedicated to the CE between 2016-2020 (via Horizon 2020). The total investment is 1220 M€ for the focus areas “Industry 2020 and the circular economy“ and “Connecting economic and environmental gains – the Circular Economy (CE)”.
Targeted outreach and communication activities to assist Member States and regions for the uptake of Cohesion Policy funds for the circular economy From 2014 to 2020, Cohesion Policy allocates around EUR 150 billion to objectives with a direct relevance to the circular economy, such as research and innovation, SMEs, low-carbon economy, resource efficiency and waste management.


Key ActionsAim of action
Development of a monitoring framework for the circular economyA Monitoring Framework of Indicators for the CE was published on 16 January 2018. The framework helps to measure progress towards a circular economy at EU and national level. It is composed of a set of ten key indicators which cover each phase – i.e. production, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials – as well as economic aspects i.e. investments, jobs, gross value added and innovation.