Environment

EU auditors: Billions spent in vain on circular economy transition

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Published

July 4, 2023

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Published:

July 4, 2023

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The transition to a circular economy in European Union (EU) countries is far behind schedule despite billions of euros spent on the effort, according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The EU action plans and financial support have had little impact on countries’ transition, particularly when it comes to the circular design of products and manufacturing processes, the ECA said.

Given all this, the EU has a slim chance of achieving its goal to double the recycling rate of materials during this decade, compared to the previous one, according to a statement from the ECA.

Between 2015 and 2021, the average circularity rate for all 27 EU countries increased by only 0.4 percentage points, with seven states – Lithuania, Sweden, Romania, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland, and Poland – even regressing during that period.

The average circularity rate between 2015 and 2021 rose by just 0.4 points, with seven countries even regressing

The EU earmarked more than EUR 10 billion between 2016 and 2020 for investment in green innovation and support to businesses to get ahead of the curve in the transition to a circular economy. However, the member states spent the vast majority of this money on managing waste rather than on preventing it through circular design, the ECA noted.

Preserving materials and minimizing waste are essential if the EU wants to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal, said ECA member Annemie Turtelboom, adding that the circular transition is “almost at a standstill in European countries.”

The circular transition is “almost at a standstill” in the EU

Noting that the EU countries’ progress has halted in recent years, the auditors also highlighted insufficient focus on product design that would have helped make products safer and manufacturing processes more sustainable.

The ECA particularly highlighted the issue of planned obsolescence – the practice of artificially limiting a product’s useful life so that it needs to be replaced with a new one.

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