Il Commissario europeo Vella alla conferenza “Circular Economy: European Priority – No time to waste”

Il Commissario europeo Vella alla conferenza “Circular Economy: European Priority – No time to waste”
© European Parliament, Hearings of candidate commissioners: Karmenu Vella under scrutiny at the European Parliament, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

22 ottobre 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the encouraging views you have expressed today.

Making the European economy more circular will require support from many quarters.

From yourselves, from the Member States, from business, and from NGOs. And most important of all, from the citizens of the EU.

Before I go into any details today, I’d like to frame my remarks by recalling that 2015 is a very important year for sustainability. We have a new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development just adopted in New York. And we are looking forward to an ambitious global deal on climate change in Paris.

The circular economy can make a substantial contribution to all elements of sustainable development. Being more circular will help mitigate climate change, and it will save valuable resources.

We will create jobs and growth, boost business and innovation.

We understand the importance. That’s why we have promised to come back with an improved package.

And it’s why we have consulted widely. The result is a genuine cross-sectoral effort. It has brought together a number of services under the leadership of First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen.

I have had fruitful discussions with businesses, NGOs, national authorities, and academia. With practitioners who pioneer Circular Economy solutions, and with experts who study the theory behind the Circular Economy.

I visited a paper recycling plant to see waste turned into a high-quality material, and to understand the challenges the industry faces.

I saw a treatment plant in Malta that turns bio-waste into energy and compost. I met policymakers implementing Circular Economy principles in their Member States, and experts such as those from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who issued an inspiring report.

Our June conference in Brussels gathered over 700 participants. Their messages were loud and clear.

  • They want a greater focus on Eco-design, to boost the material efficiency of products. They want to see products made easier to repair, more durable, and easier to recycle.
  • They want binding targets on waste. They want better implementation and enforcement of existing laws. And they want a tool to monitor progress towards Circular Economy.

We also held a public consultation. Business was strongly represented, providing around 45% of all replies. You heard the details this morning, but let’s dwell for a moment on the main messages.

  • First of all, there was support across the board. All stakeholders want to see a less linear, more circular economic model. That is crucial. The Circular Economy is not a polarising issue. That is good news.
  • Stakeholders across the board want action on electronic devices, food, packaging, and in the construction and demolition sector. They think the EU should look at plastics, at critical raw materials and at bio-nutrients.
  • In terms of barriers to the circular economy, hazardous chemicals were much to the fore. Stakeholders are concerned about toxic substances in products. They worry about the interplay between EU legislation on waste, chemicals, and products.
  • There is telling support for product policy measures, such as Eco-design. There were calls for more and better information about products and their impacts. On Monday, the Commission started consulting more widely about which products should form part of the next wave of Eco designed products.
  • I also found wide support for developing the repair and reuse sectors, and for products that are easier to repair. More waste prevention is a general concern.

Stakeholder input was a valuable source of information, and a good test for the validity of our plans. Overall, the consultation gives us a bright green light.

Ladies and gentlemen, many thanks for your own contribution. Because we have valuable input from this house available to inform our work.  First the own-initiative report for which the Honourable Member, Sirpa Pietikäinen, was rapporteur, but also a lively debate with political groups and individual Members.

Three messages stood out from your contributions.

  • First is the strong support for measures to ensure that waste becomes a reliable source of clean, safe secondary raw materials. I believe that the new waste proposal, our legislation on chemicals and Eco-design policies can respond to this need.
  • Second, many of you believe in targets. We all agree that increasing recycling is important for competitiveness. Smart targets have positive benefits for the economy and for the environment, and they help ensure predictability. I trust that the revised waste proposal, will keep a high level of ambition and will be better adapted to the real-world situation. It will be more focused on narrowing the gaps between Member States.
  • And thirdly, I heard many voices in favour of more durable, repairable, and more resource-efficient products which do not become waste for as long as possible.

To make these things happen, we must reinforce support for circular economy and for innovation at the European level.

That will mean targeted investment in eco-innovation, particularly for SMEs. The Commission can help, with advice, funding, and public-private collaboration.

We already have in place European Innovation Partnerships on water or on raw materials. This new approach to European research and innovation is challenge-driven, focused on societal benefits, and it offers rapid modernisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, the Commission is working hard on this strategy, and aiming for adoption by the end of this year.

We are on track.