There has been much talk recently about the European Commission’s new zero-waste programme, which is the basis for the development of a circular economy to span the EU. The legal framework being established aims to prevent valuable materials being lost by boosting recycling, as well as reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, promoting new business models, prompting economic growth and creating new jobs — according to the commission, at least.
The commission claims that this kind of circular economy, where 80 per cent of packaging materials and 70 per cent of municipal waste are recycled by 2030, could save businesses in the EU around 600 billion euros. Packaging manufacturers around Europe are now working towards these targets, but there are some countries that are already ahead when it comes to compliance with circular economy legislation.
The key to the resource strategy adopted in Denmark in 2013 is the idea that all waste is a resource which should be reused or recycled. At the moment, around 23 per cent of waste is recycled in Denmark, but the country’s government aims to increase the recycling of household waste to 50 per cent by 2022. The country has a Green Transition Fund, co-ordinated by the Danish Ministry for Growth and Business, which promotes the idea that one business’s waste is another’s resource — a true mark of a circular economy in practice. There is still work to be done, however, including promoting the design of produce with ultimate disassembly in mind.
The Netherlands is justifiably proud of its stringent reuse legislation and position as a leader in the collection of everything from household waste to old cars. There is virtually no use of landfill within the country now, from either packaging manufacturers and their products or the general public, and there is an internal target which aims to see 75 per cent of waste sorted and separated at source. Experts, however, say that more still needs to be done to minimise incineration in order to allow for optimum circular economy performance.
Scotland is leading Britain when it comes to circular economy legislation. In 2013, it became the first country to take a place in the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s CE100 circular economy group, which has a three-year circular economy transition target. The latest move is to require that all retailers to charge shoppers for plastic bags.