Higher recycling targets and new 'green' jobs set to drive EU transition to a circular economy

3rd July 2014

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Luke Pearson

The European commission is calling on member states to increase recycling and cut waste in a bid to create 580,000 jobs and turn Europe into a more sustainable circular economy.

The commission’s proposals aim to strengthen existing waste legislation by raising recycling targets to 70% for municipal waste and 80% for packaging waste by 2030, and banning all recyclable materials from landfill by 2025. Tailor-made approaches will be implemented for specific waste streams, such as construction and demolition, food, marine litter, phosphorus, hazardous and plastic wastes.

The proposals are part of an ambitious transition from a linear economy, which the commission regards as outdated, to a circular one that keeps materials in productive use for longer. Environment commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Moving to a circular economy is not only possible, it is profitable. If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfills as waste. The 2030 targets that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers."

Supporting the drive to a circular economy is the commission’s “green employment” initiative. It aims to maximise green job opportunities in an emerging resource-efficient, low carbon economy. In a communication, the commission states that, even during the recession, green jobs grew by 20% and there is potential for more jobs in energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste and water management, air quality, biodiversity and green infrastructure.

László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, claimed the structural shift towards a green and resource-efficient economy is already bringing about fundamental changes across all sectors, and said it will play a critical role in increasing Europe’s competitiveness. “It is an opportunity to generate high quality environmentally-friendly jobs, while securing the sustainable wellbeing of future generations and contributing to recovery from the economic crisis,” he said.

The communication on green employment sets out an integrated framework for employment and labour market policies, which includes bridging skills and knowledge gaps, anticipating sectoral changes and supporting job creation by shifting taxation away from labour and on to pollution.


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