There is a lot of talks these days about the circular economy, but what does it really mean? In essence, circularity is about eliminating the creation of waste. Utilising existing materials and products efficiently by recycling and reusing is part of the circular economy.
In many countries across Europe, waste management functions reliably, and the sorting and separate collection of waste fractions is part of everyday life. For instance, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany have already reached the 2030 European Union target of recycling 70 per cent of packaging waste.
Across the EU, about a quarter of municipal waste ends up in landfills, which is still quite far from the 10% target in 2035. However, countries such as Belgium, Germany, Finland and Sweden, among others, have succeeded in reducing the share of landfill disposal to less than three per cent of all municipal waste. In these countries, the waste that cannot be recycled or reused is recovered almost completely for waste-to-energy production. This also has the benefit of reducing the use of fossil fuels in electricity and heat production.
While many European countries are already at a good level when it comes to sorting and recycling materials, there is still work to be done particularly in the smart use of materials and in increasing the use of recycled materials.
Thinking about your own choices and actions is a key component in the circular economy, and consumers have a significant role in the big picture. Everybody must have the opportunity to recycle and to understand what happens to raw materials after they have been put in the recycle bin. When recycling and sorting waste, you also start thinking about your own buying habits and consumption. Do I really need to buy this, or can I buy it used? Is there a similar product that is made from recycled materials?