Putting the EU ambition to lead by example into practice


      It is Europe’s ambition to lead the global transition towards a low-carbon and circular economy. This process is an opportunity to facilitate a more
sustainable economy and to create jobs and generate competitive advantages for Europe.

      The European Union Regulation (EU) 2019/2088 defines economic activities that  can contribute substantially to the environmental objective of transitioning to a circular economy in several ways.·        

      “It can, for example, increase the durability, reparability, upgradability and reusability of products, or can reduce the use of resources through the design and choice of materials, facilitating repurposing, disassembly and deconstruction in the buildings and construction sector, in particular to reduce the use of building materials and promote the reuse of building materials.·        

  • It can also contribute substantially to the environmental objective of transitioning to a circular economy by developing ‘product-as-a-service’ business models and circular value chains, with the aim of keeping products, components and materials at their highest utility and value for as long as possible.
  • Any reduction in the content of hazardous substances in materials and products throughout the life cycle, including by replacing them with safer alternatives, should, as a minimum, be in accordance with Union law.·      
  • An economic activity can also contribute substantially to the environmental objective of transitioning to a circular economy by reducing food waste in the production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food.” 



A circular economy is a production and consumption model that requires the reuse, repair, refurbishment, and recycling of existing materials and products to keep materials in the economic cycle. The circular model is generally the opposite of a traditional, linear economic model based on a “take-make-consume-discard” pattern.

Our web-dossier: discover more details

  • The policy path towards a circular economy
  • Lessons from the introduction of circular economy measure
  • Experience in EU member states
  • Less waste, more value
  • Circular products
  • Circular economy in key product value chains
  • Consumption – from procurement to sharing
Circular Economy and its' elements

The opportunities of a circular economy

Circular economy business models minimise the demands for natural resources as primary input without compromising economic and social returns. This implies using resources more efficiently and preserving their value for as long as possible – embedded or not in products. Retaining the original resource value of secondary materials has an intrinsic economic interest, making such materials suitable for trade and market processes. A circular approach to resource use also offers opportunities for economic resilience, as access to virgin materials becomes less critical and new ways of doing business emerge. Resource efficiency across multiple – if not all – steps of a product’s value chain, including extraction, manufacturing, final use and after sales services, reduces both costs and environmental impact. EU. A circular economy can impact markets. According to Eurostat, jobs related to circular economy activities have increased by 6% between 2012 and 2016 within the EU. As the circular economy concept builds on systemic changes in the way we produce and consume, it will trigger innovations and industrial renewal.

The Opportunities at a glance

According to the Circularity Gap report only 8.6% of the world is circular. Achieving a transition to circularity requires unprecedented collaboration given that today but also holds manifold opportunities.

Opportunities - Facts and Figures

Reducing resource use with circular economy strategies can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39% (22.8 billion tons) and be instrumental in averting the dangerous effects of climate change.

Utilizing existing solutions like replacing plastic other materials, designing plastics so that they can be more easily recycled, and scaling up collection and recycling could reduce the flow of plastic waste into the ocean by 80% in 20 years.

The International Labour organisation projects that a transition to a circular economy could create a net increase of 6 million jobs by 2030 globally.

The cumulative effect of current EU rules helped to reduce the primary energy demand in the EU by 7% in 2020.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation projected that further targeted investment of €320 billion by 2025 in raising the circularity of three value chains (mobility, food and built environment) would lead to a 7% increase in EU GDP by 2030.

How the EU started the CE transition


The European Union has taken a number of steps shaping circularity with adopting communication, directives and regulation as a wide-ranging driver involving many sectors. Lifecycle thinking, is already used in EU
policy, since the Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy from 2001. Early directives  such as the Waste Framework Directive (2008) and  the Ecodesign Framework Directive (2009) already facilitated recycling within Europe. With
the communication Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe (2014) the European Commission underpinned the shift of its focus to circularity. The adoption of Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy in 2015 has facilitated circular practices in numerous industries. Since then, various regulations on packaging, waste, waste shipment and eco-design were amended. With the EU Green Deal the European Commission introduced a number of strategies including the Circular Economy Action Plan II.

For details on recent policy decision continue reading the next section.