The EU is currently not on track to achieve its target of doubling the CMUR (Circular Material Use Rate) by 2030. A report published by the EEA (European Environment Agency) cast an interesting spotlight on the current state of the EU and what actions need to be taken to ensure that this target can be reached in the next six and a half years.
At present, the EU economy uses many materials that are deemed “unsustainable”. These could be virgin materials that haven’t been acquired by means such as recycling, or it’s also large amounts of fossil fuels which by and large are incredibly damaging to the environment.
The latest report shows that only 11.7% of materials used by the EU came from recycled waste, and the CMUR at that point (and the previous 20 years) had increased incrementally without much impact being shown.
From looking at statistics provided by the EEA, The Netherlands, Belgium and France are making a significant impact on adopting a circular economy with rates of 20% and above. Countries such as Romania, Finland and Ireland, with rates of 2% and below, are all encountering significant problems with achieving their goals as individual countries, let alone as a collective in the EU.
Strategies such as recycling are simply not strong nor efficient enough to propel the EU to achieve its desired target by 2030. Instead, a triple-pronged approach (as highlighted in the EEA report) has been suggested:
#1 Enhancing Recycling
Although recycling cannot be the sole method used, enhancing what is currently in place can help to reach the EU’s necessary goals. As of 2022, Germany is the country in the EU that recycles the most, an impressive 66.1% of all of their waste. Germany is considered a leader in recycling due to the processes and initiatives that they currently have in place.
“Over the last two decades, Germany has adopted a series of strategies – such as mandatory waste sorting policies and an extremely efficient deposit refund scheme – that have significantly improved its waste management and increased its recycling rates. The country also introduced a so-called ‘Energiewende’, a roadmap to the low-carbon and renewable energy transition and in shaping the public opinion on the importance of environmentally sound management of waste.”
You can read more about their techniques and strategies here.
#2 Improving material efficiency
Improving as well as reducing material consumption (inclusive of domestic material consumption) is another important area of focus. There are multiple components of domestic material consumption:
“Domestic material consumption (DMC) refers to the amount of materials (in terms of weight) used in an economy, i.e. materials extracted or harvested in the country, plus materials and products imported, minus material and products exported”
In essence, looking at how countries can use their own resources (even down to agriculture) can boost the concept of a circular economy rather than relying on imports which in turn, create more waste. Encouraging homes to live more sustainably and have this mindset also contributes to improving material efficiency.
#3 Reducing the use of fossil fuels
Germany is currently the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the EU. Reducing fossil fuels (also known as climate change mitigation) is an additional measure that can be put in place to achieve these goals. The goals are currently to decrease fossil fuels by 34% in 2030 and 83% by 2050.
It’s important to note that not all materials have the same environmental impacts – the main contributors are fossil fuels and biomass, which should be targeted first along with measures being put in place for other materials on a domestic and a commercial scale.
What are other countries doing?
Outside of the EU, countries such as Canada and Australia are also looking at circular design principles that are also going to enable them to achieve their CMUR goals. By 2050, Canada will be a country of 50 million people – and their circular economy goals are also set to be reached by 2030. Their approach looks at business owners, governments and Canadian stakeholders to propel the right mindset (as well as invest in the right resources) to enable them to achieve this.
In Australia, things are being tackled on a state basis, with examples such as New South Wales having plans to “incorporate circular design principles and decarbonization measures into infrastructure projects across the state.”
These measures aim to reduce waste, promote sustainability, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The government has also launched a new program to support businesses in transitioning to circular economy practices. These initiatives are part of the government’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
What can be done on a commercial and domestic scale by the EU
Aside from the aforementioned larger-scale commitments that have been made, commercially the EU must take a wider look into its businesses and conduct circularity assessments to understand the circularity of existing products and systems, thus being able to identify areas for improvement.
On a domestic scale, leaders must look at initiatives whereby individuals can create homes that are more sustainable which in turn, promotes a more circular economy.
Improved circularity from a domestic perspective includes reduced packaging of goods, and improved and broadened recycling streams – there cannot be complete reliance on commercial sustainability to create meaningful change. A huge part of this is education and providing citizens with adequate resources to make a difference.
At Superfy, we are developing technology solutions to help increase recycling rates worldwide. I am very proud of the contribution we are making towards a circular economy and I look forward to further progress overall within the EU and throughout the world.
For more information on Superfy’s solutions for a circular economy, visit www.superfy.com
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