How can the EU promote reuse in the Circular Economy?

Peter Holdorf, Mara Fehling

The most efficient way to limit the impact of waste on the environment, is to prevent it. After prevention, the second best option, saving energy and resources is the reuse of products.

Expanding reuse practices is critical to unlocking the EU’s circular economy ambitions set out in the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan. Despite the political momentum behind the circular economy agenda, reuse rates remain very low in the EU. What actions could the EU take to improve the situation? The German Environment Agency (UBA) in a recent report looked at the potential steps which could be taken to unlock the potential of reuse.

Reusing a product, rather than buying a new one, almost always pays off in terms of energy use if the energy needed to make a new product is considered. Despite lower energy requirements of newer models during use, production is often energy intensive, so longer use of an old product is desirable. On top of that, increasing reuse could also create thousands of jobs in the EU, while manufacturing for the products used in the EU is often located outside EU borders.

To achieve higher reuse rates, UBA calls for a better understanding of the possible sources for reuse, marketing to improve the image of reuse and incentivise consumer, as well as a clear monitoring system to track progress in the coming years.

In the new Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission announced that measures would be taken to ensure that products, especially electronics, like phones and tablets, are designed to be reused in the future. This would open up a much greater amount of products and materials for reuse and other sustainable methods to enable the circular economy.

The FH Environment and Chemicals Team gives you the headlines in our video on the report – get in touch with our circular economy experts for more information.