The European Union will introduce practical measures to improve design of products to ensure recyclablility as well as direct cohesion funds towards recycling.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said in a speech to the BusinessEurope Advisory and Support Group CEO event in Brussels that a new Industrial Policy Update to be launched this week will contain specific resource efficiency measures including:
- Practical proposals for extending eco-design to recyclability, durability and resource efficiency
- Practical proposals for industrial symbiosis schemes to put together companies with by-products and waste, with other companies that can use them
- Practical proposals for directing structural and cohesion funds towards waste treatment that focuses on recycling and composting
- It also announces plans to develop common environmental footprinting methods to calculate the sustainability of products and of organisations based on life-cycle assessment. This should help cut costs for businesses operating across the Single Market and develop an effective single market for green goods and services which ensures that the best performers are rewarded for their efforts, and that consumers can have confidence in environmental claims.
The Environment Commissioner said: “Throughout its evolution and diversification, our industrial economy has scarcely moved beyond the fundamental characteristic established in the early days of industrialisation: a linear model of resource consumption that follows that ‘take-make-use-throw away’ pattern. Today in Europe we use 16 tonnes of materials per capita annually, of which six tonnes becomes waste, and half of that waste is then landfilled.
“This linear model was feasible for as long as only a fairly small proportion of the world was growing rich. Fortunately, today many more billions are on a path to comfortable middle-class consumer lifestyles. And fortunately our companies will be able to satisfy many of those new markets. But unlimited growth on a limited planet means that this linear approach will inevitably lead to scarcity, price-volatility, supply disruptions and pricing levels that are unaffordable for our economy’s industrial base. This is particularly problematic for Europe, where we are heavily import dependant for our materials…
“… The more global pressures push up resource prices, the more our waste will become valuable, and the greater will be the incentive to pump it back into the economy. But to make sure that we can do so effectively we must already start designing for recyclablilty, for repair and re-use. The design stage is crucial.
“It also means developing business models, such as leasing, that bring products back to their producers at the end of their life so that they can refurbish them, or recuperating the materials.
“It also means developing markets for secondary raw materials, and it means improving our recycling technologies to deal with more complex products and composite materials.”