A stronger pledge towards circular economy, including waste prevention, is demanded from Europe.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released an assessment of the progress towards achieving the circular economy action plan’s goal of doubling the proportion of recycled materials used in European economies by 2030. The assessment highlights the need to accelerate progress towards increasing recycling and reducing overall material usage to meet the goal. The EEA’s second report on waste prevention suggests a stronger and systematic approach to monitoring progress at the EU level.

The EEA briefing, “How far is Europe from reaching its goal of doubling the circular use of materials?” indicates that the current percentage of recycled waste used in materials is 13.2%, up from 8.3% in 2004. To meet the goal, the recycling rate of treated waste needs to increase from the current 40% to 70%, and overall material input needs to decrease by 15%, while fossil fuels usage needs to decrease by 34%. The non-metallic minerals industry, which accounts for about half of all materials used in the EU, requires special attention.

Waste prevention is a key strategy for achieving a circular economy, and the EEA’s analysis “Tracking progress in waste prevention” proposes a new set of indicators focused on monitoring long-term trends in waste prevention. The framework aims to establish links between waste prevention policies and waste generation. However, more specific, harmonized data and information across the EU are needed to make the most of this surveillance framework.

The EEA report states that almost all EU member states have quantitative targets and indicators on waste prevention, but these targets and indicators vary widely. Setting EU-level waste prevention targets, such as the food waste reduction target currently under development, will help set measurement directions and targets and strengthen waste prevention obligations.

In support of these assessments, the EEA published its latest “Waste Prevention Countries Factsheet,” which presents country-specific data and analysis on waste prevention efforts in EEA member and partner countries across Europe. The European Commission also released a revised circular economy surveillance framework earlier this week to better track the progress of the transition to a circular economy in the EU and its contributions towards climate neutrality, resilience, and global sustainability.

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