Economia Circolare e Rifiuti

Translation by Matteo Aristei
June 2019

In the European Union tons of waste are ever more produced and for thus Europe is updating the legislation on waste management . Recently climate change and global warming have increased and Europe needs to plan strategies to protect the future of the earth . The European Union has developed plans and has fixed objectives in order to fight pollution which is damaging our planet, Therefore, Europe aims at the development of a circular economy .

The circular economy is an economical system planned to reuse materials in several productive stages, reducing waste at most . This circular economy is an economy designed to auto-regenerate , in which biological materials must be reintegrated in the biosphere, and the technical ones must be designed to be revalorized without damaging the biosphere . All this implies sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible . In this way, the life cycle of products is extended . With the circular economy consumers can have more durable and innovative products which are able to improve the quality of life .

There are 5 fundamental criteria for the transition towards a circular economy :

1. Eco-planning, planning products thinking about their use since the beginning and end, therefore with features which will allow the assembly and the renovation ;
2. Versatility, modularity, versatility and adaptability of the product are very important in order to permit its use to external condition changes ;
3. Renewable energies, we have to rely on energy produced by renewable sources, guaranteeing the fast abandon of the energetic model based on fossil sources ;
4. Approach to the ecosystem, be careful of the system, bearing in mind the cause-effect relation between different components ;
5. Materials recover, guaranteeing the replacement of virgin raw materials with second raw materials from recover sectors which maintain their qualities .

All of this could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth, creating jobs ( 580,000 jobs in the EU alone ).

Furthermore, The EU wants to reduce plastic waste . Discover its strategy from increasing recycling to introducing bans on certain micro-plastics and single-use plastics . Waste has a negative impact on the environment, climate, human health and the economy, and although waste management in the EU has improved considerably in recent decades, over a quarter of municipal waste is still landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted . In a bid to tackle plastic pollution, the European Commission proposed a plastics strategy with the aims of ensuring that by 2030 every piece of plastic packaging can be reused or recycled, as well as of reducing the consumption of single-use plastics and the use of micro-plastics . In addition MEPs are also currently discussing a proposal to ban certain single-use plastics such as cutlery, plates and balloon sticks, as well require goods packaging companies to contribute towards the cost of cleaning up discarded plastics . The plenary vote on it is expected to take place in October .

Another problem are micro-plastics : tiny pieces of plastic material typically smaller than five millimetres . Micro-plastics found in the sea can be ingested by marine animals . The plastic then accumulates and can end up in humans through the food chain . They have been found in food and drinks, including beer, honey and tap water . Not surprisingly, plastic particles have also recently been discovered in human stool .

The effect on human health is as yet unknown, but plastics often contain additives, such as stabilisers or flame-retardants, and other possibly toxic chemical substances that may be harmful to the animal or human ingesting them .

In September 2018, MEPs approved a plastics strategy that aims to increase the recycling rate of plastic waste in the EU . In addition, they called on the European Commission to introduce an EU-wide ban on intentionally added microplasticsin products such as cosmetics and detergents by 2020, and to take measures to minimise the release of micro-plastics from textiles, tyres, paint and cigarette butts .