In a circular economy, products and the materials they contain are highly valued. This contrasts with the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a ‘take-make-consume-throw away’ pattern. In practice, a circular economy minimises waste through reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products.
There are a number of ways to make smarter use of our resources. These include: improving the implementation of the ‘waste hierarchy’, a concept in EU legislation which sets priorities among waste prevention and treatment options; increasing the lifetime of products; and sharing our resources using new business models.
Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver benefits, including reduced pressure on the environment; enhanced raw material supply security; and increased competitiveness, innovation, growth and jobs. However, the move also poses challenges, such as finance, key economic enablers, skills, consumer behaviour, business models and multi-level governance.
The EU has set itself ambitious goals (‘to live well, within the limits of the planet’ by 2050). In 2015, the European Commission pledged to take many actions to promote transition towards a circular economy, and the European Parliament is now monitoring their implementation.
The circular economy is set to become an important part of EU citizens’ daily lives. Our new animated infographic on the circular economy provides a visual explanation of the main concepts, as well as the facts and figures which underpin the movement.