On 08 February, during the European Parliament’s Plenary Session, MEPs debated the Environment Committee’s (ENVI) non-legislative Report on the Commission’s new EU Circular Economy Action Plan, led by Rapporteur Jan Huitema (Renew, Netherlands). The report was adopted by the ENVI Committee on 03 February and is expected to be approved later today by the Plenary.
The report supports the work done by the European Commission on circular economy and recognises the views that the Internal Market is a precondition for achieving a circular economy. It proposes binding EU targets for 2030 to significantly reduce the EU material and consumption footprints. Furthermore, the report calls on the Commission to propose binding material and environmental footprint targets for the whole product lifecycle for each product category placed on the EU market, including the most carbon-intensive semi products, and urges for the introduction of sector-specific binding targets for recycled content.
The report introduces “right to repair” obligations, aimed at covering the extended life cycle of products, the access to spare parts and information. It also calls on the Commission to consider extending the legal guarantee right and reverse the burden of proof rules. Additionally, it identifies “early obsolescence” in electronic products as a key issue, and suggests a number of product-specific provisions among which an EU-wide take back scheme for ICT products, improved eco-design of plastics, improved reusability and recyclability of textiles, and a target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. The report also suggests expanding the role of the digital product passport to climate, environmental, social and other impacts.
Finally, the report supports the Commission’s work on proposing measures to improve and harmonise existing separate collection systems and to further harmonise waste statistics. It calls for a revision of the Waste Shipment Directive and calls for greater European producers’ responsibility on waste by requiring that primary and secondary raw materials imported to the EU comply with human rights, human health and environmental protection standards that are equivalent to EU standards.
While the report is of non-legislative nature, it reveals the European Parliament’s priorities regarding circular economy initiatives. Its emphasis on better harmonisation and the development of a uniformed approach among Member States, specifically regarding waste, could be seen as positive sign for e-commerce in the EU. Furthermore, the suggested broadening of the Eco-Design directive, which sets horizontal sustainability principles and an array of additional product-specific standards, includes the entire value chain in ensuring the sustainability and durability of products. The right to repair provisions should be examined further to determine the time frame within which spare parts must be made available to consumers. Similarly, providing access to information through a digital tool could be useful, as long as the required information is selected through a risk-based and scientific method and does not result in neither an overload of information nor undue, burdensome obligations.
While the rapporteur, MEP Huitema, has expressed confidence about the adoption of the report, the European People’s Party Group (EPP) has demonstrated reservations about the report. They have suggested splitting the vote today on seven amendments, all by the EPP, which, if accepted, will remove the report’s call for proposals on planned obsolescence and lessen the requirements on some of the other provisions. However, EPP’s shadow rapporteur on the file, MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland) stated that she did not support the last-minute amendments, which were the result of “a division of thinking in the EPP,” specifically by some MEPs from the Internal Market Committee (IMCO). While the report is likely to be adopted later today, MEP Pietikäinen is doubtful the EPP amendments will make it through. She also questioned whether the European Commission will be able to match the ambition of the European Parliament in upcoming legislative proposals.