Not only the Dutch government provides incentives to stimulate circular procurement and tendering. The EU is also taking steps towards a circular economy. Europe already presented a first action plan in 2015. This month, the EU announced a new action plan for a European circular economy entitled "For a cleaner and more competitive Europe."
This plan contains 35 additional measures to promote a European circular economy. The most outstanding? Circular procurement becomes less non-binding. The EU wants to introduce targets and reports to further stimulate circular procurement.
Like the Netherlands, the EU also recognizes the importance of circularity. By 2050, each member state must be climate neutral and the EU must jointly achieve zero CO2 emissions. The European Commission already published an action plan in 2015 entitled “Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the circular economy”. It contained 54 measures to promote a circular economy in the EU. It was, among other things, about countering the dumping of plastic in seas, but also tackling false "green" claims and waste management. For example, the ban on disposable plastic that will take effect in 2021 is a result of the first action plan.
A new set of measures is now being added in the form of an additional action plan. Jos Pees, sustainability advisor at Knowledge Center Europe decentralized, says that circularity was first on the European agenda with the previous action plan. “In the first plan from 2015, the emphasis was mainly on measures that focused on the last phase of a product cycle, the waste phase. The new action plan is the next step, with more attention being paid to the process higher up the production chain.” This is called ecodesign. Pees: "When you have waste with a lot of pollutants, you cannot collect it manually or reuse it." By paying attention to the use of raw materials for reuse in a production chain, it is easier to recycle products later.
"In addition, the previous action plan was more isolated. The circular economy is a broad subject and this new action plan is really presented as an integral part of the Green Deal. It is one of the components to achieve a climate-neutral policy,” he says.
The new action plan contains 35 additional measures that should take effect between 2020 and 2023. New is, among other things, the laws and regulations for consumers. The EU wants consumers to gain more power in the area of circularity. For example, there will be a right to repair for consumers who have bought goods and consumers should have better access to information about circularity. In addition, more sectors than before are involved in this action plan, including the ICT, electronics, transport and textile sectors. More attention is being paid to the risks of microplastics, material efficiency in construction must be increased and LCAs will be included in public tenders. Municipal waste must also be halved by 2030 and an EU-wide waste separation policy must be introduced.
In the previous plan, the EU already put forward green criteria that decentralized authorities could use if they wanted to procure or tender in a circular way. The new plan aims to go a step further. For example, there should be a target for the number of green public contracts that governments award and the European Commission wants reports on this. Circular procurement becomes less non-binding. Pees finds it an interesting measure. “If you are going to set criteria for minimum green public procurement for more sectors, this can certainly put things right. Preparing reports may entail administrative burdens for civil servants.” It is not yet known exactly how these reports should be set up.
It is difficult to measure the effects of the measures that emerged from the previous action plan at the moment," says Pees. “The waste package that was introduced in 2015, for example. The amendment of the guidelines was only adopted in 2018 and will only take shape in national legislation this year. Many of those goals - if you speak of recycling municipal waste or separate collection - do not start until 2030 or 2035. So that takes a while before you can actually measure that.” Everything that is already measurable is recorded in Eurostat. Why is there now a new action plan? “There is always progressive insight in policy on sustainable subjects. It has to get better. After this action plan you will see another step. When we are 100% circular, we are ready, not before,” he says.
According to Pees, the Netherlands is already a long way in the field of circularity. The Dutch government set targets for a circular economy earlier than the EU. “The objectives we set, such as the Netherlands circular in 2050, go beyond what has been agreed at European level. We are certainly ahead of the game in terms of circularity. In contrast to renewable energy, we are not necessarily the best” says Pees.
Green Public Procurement (GPP) is an important engine for innovation in Europe and gives companies an important incentive to do business sustainably. SKAO wants to investigate with the European Commission how the successful tender instrument the CO2 Performance Ladder can contribute to GPP ambitions in the European Green Deal. Read the letter from SKAO addressed to Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, here. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has written a cover letter in which it endorses the importance of the CO2 Performance Ladder.
RIVM recently conducted research into the effect of Circular Procurement. This study shows that The CO2 Performance Ladder is a purchasing instrument that demonstrably leads to more circularity. Read the article about it here.