In terms of circular economy in the waste management sector, the European Commission was able to accomplish a significant portion of its reform goals: a year ago, on 4 July 2018, the “Circular Economy Package” came into effect. Its four directives, by modifying six directives on waste, packaging, landfills, end-of-life vehicles, batteries and WEEE, paved the way for “circular” waste management. One year later (2 July 2019), Directive (EU) 2019/904 came into effect, banning the trade of several single-use plastic products, such as plates, cutlery, straws and Q-tips, as well as oxo-degradable plastics, and requiring member states to initiate measures to reduce the consumption of other products.

The purpose of the plastics directive is to push for a more intelligent, innovative and sustainable plastics industry, in which design and production respect the necessity to reuse, repair and recycle. Currently, in the EU, only 30% of all plastic gets recycled, and the market share of recycled plastics is just 6%.

In terms of energy, the Commission was able to get the EU Parliament and Council to approve the “Clean Energy Package,” composed of eight regulatory measures that are now fully implemented. This important reform covers a wide range of issues including: the reorganisation of the electricity market, making it better integrated, secure and competitive; the redefinition of the framework concerning renewable energies; as well as legislation concerning energy efficiency that pushes for the decarbonisation in the real estate sector.

Four legislative provisions are dated 5 June 2019: Directive (EU) 2019/944 and Regulation (EU) 2019/943 on the internal electricity market, Regulation (EU) 2019/941 on the prevention of blackout risks, and Regulation (EU) 2019/942 on the cooperation between national energy regulation bodies. These are in addition to another four provisions previously approved: Directives (EU) 2018/2001 on renewable energies and 2018/2002 on energy efficiency, Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on energy governance and Directive (EU) 2018/844 on energy efficiency in the construction sector.

In the realm of sustainable finance, the EC can celebrate the final phases of approval for three important regulations to direct private investments towards circular economy and low-carbon initiatives. One of the regulations in question is concerned with the creation of a framework to facilitate sustainable investments, another to improve information related to sustainable investments and sustainability risks, and the third introduces a low-carbon index among financial instruments’ reference indices.

There’s also news related to the transportation of dangerous goods: starting on 1 July 2019, new provisions have come definitively into force regarding the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous commodities for the purposes of transport by road, in accordance with the ADR International Treaty.

Meanwhile, actions aimed at combating CO2 pollution have continued. Regulation (EU) 2019/856, in force from 17 June, launched the Innovation Fund that will finance innovative technologies to modernise the energy sector and push for an economy with low CO2 emissions.

As far as biofuels are concerned, Regulation (EU) 2019/807 is noteworthy as it limits the allocation of land dedicated to the production of biofuels.

Additionally, thanks to Regulation (EU) 2019/1009, from 16 July 2022 there will be new rules for the circulation of fertilisers in the EU (opening up CE markings and trade for organic, mineral-organic and biostimulant products) and end-of-waste criteria for waste used in fertilisers.

Finally, two updates on dangerous substances. Regulation (EU) 2019/636 updated the legislation from 2004 regarding persistent organic pollutants (POPs), adding pentachlorophenol starting from 31 October 2019, whereas from 3 January 2021, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2019/957, there will be ban on the sale of spray products containing (3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6,7,7,8,8,8-tridecafluorooctyl) silanetriol - and its by-products - associated with organic solvents.