Renewable Matter # 21 / May-June

In Europe the Circular Economy Becomes Law

by Francesco Petrucci

The circular economy has become a piece of European legislation that is ready to have a considerable effect on the materials market. On the May 22nd2018, the EU Council approved the “Circular Economy Package” (already passed by the EU Parliament on the 18thof April 2018) with proposals for a directive on waste, landfills, packaging, vehicles, and electrical and electronic waste equipment and batteries. The measures included in the Circular Economy Package will reward the most innovative companies that are able to manufacture low environmental impact, sustainable, repairable and recyclable products.

The measures (directives 849/2018/EU, 850/2018/EU, 851/2018/EU and 852/2018/EU) published on the Official Journal of the European Union on June the 14th 2018 are effective as of July 4th 2018.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has started campaigning against polluting and non-recyclable plastics. As heralded in January 2018 during the presentation of the European strategy on plastic, on the 28th of May 2018 the European Commission introduced the proposal for a directive on single-use plastics that will have a tremendous impact on the sector.

The directive aims at curtailing the impact of plastic on the environment, in particular in terms of marine litter, by acting in several domains: prevention, with appropriate measures to reduce consumption of some single-use plastics; bans on plastic circulation, forcing certain plastic products out of the market (including cotton buds, forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks, plates and straws); and design requirements, promoting low environmental impact product designs followed by mandatory labelling of some products to warn consumers of their environmental impact. The 2021-2027 EU Financial Framework could also help reduce non-recyclable plastic. According to a draft presented on the 2nd of May 2018, the new resources financing it will include a contribution for non-recycled plastic that, according to some estimates, could bring €2 billion to the Union coffers and discourage the production of non-recyclable plastic.

Good news for efficiency in the construction sector, with the final go-ahead of the proposed amendment of Directive 2010/31/EU. The EU Parliament’s vote occurred on the 17th of April and that of the EU Council on the 14th of May 2018. The new regulations aim at decarbonising EU buildings by 2050.

Crucial steps have also been taken over greenhouse gas emissions. On April 8th 2018 the revision of the greenhouse gas emission trading scheme (Emissions Trading System) came into force. Directive 2018/410/EU modified Directive 2003/87/EC, thus making the mechanism more effective, whereby the deadline for member States to transpose the changes has been set for October 9th 2019. At the same time, final approval of the regulations setting the objectives of GHG reduction for the agriculture, transport, construction and waste sectors from 2021 to 2030 has been achieved. The EU Parliament’s vote occurred on April 17th and the Council’s on May 14th 2018. Lastly, there will also be a final vote on May 14th 2018 for the proposal on regulating the accounting and absorption of GHG emissions by soil use, change in soil use and forestry that contributes to reducing emissions.

With regard to European certification, there are further changes to Ecolabel with the Decision 2018/680/EU approving ecological criteria to obtain the EU Ecolabel for interior cleaning services (an unprecedented achievement), while Decision 2018/666/EU postpones to December 31st 2022 the already existing ecological criteria to obtain Ecolabels for interior and exterior paints.

The area regulated by the REACH Regulation 1907/2006/EC is still being updated. REACH addresses issues regarding authorisation and registration of chemical substances, which is of paramount importance for all companies working with substances or blends, with many consequences for several productive sectors, including the plastics sector since many chemicals are used as additives in plastic materials.

One of the first changes regards Regulation 2018/675/EU that, as of December 1st 2018, will update the REACH classification with regards to carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic substances for reproduction. The second action on the REACH regulation, with Regulation 2018/589/EU, was about new limits as of May 9th 2018 to trading of windscreen washing or defrosting liquids containing methanol, and restrictions for the production, use and marketing of 1-Methil-2-Pyrollidone (applicable from May 9th 2020).

Lastly – although not in force yet – the proposal that will modify a number of annexes of the REACH Regulation 1907/2006/EC has made some progress. On April 26th 2018, the member States reached an agreement on the text. The changes will clarify the REACH registration requirements, with reference to nanomaterials which are being used increasingly but are not regulated effectively, with the aim of protecting wellbeing and the environment.  

 

 

In cooperation with the Magazine Rifiuti – Bollettino di informazione normativa (“Waste – Bulletin of regulatory information”) and Osservatorio di normativa ambientale (“Environmental law observatory”) on www.reteambiente.it

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