on 11 and 12 July, the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU held an informal meeting of EU Environment and Climate Ministers in Helsinki. During the second day of the meeting, the discussions focused on circular economy and in particular ways to expand it into new areas.
In terms of the implementation of circular economy, the Ministers stressed the need to continue pursuing an ambitious approach that can accelerate the transition. To this end, they discussed the need for a new circular economy action plan – the so-called circular economy 2.0 – which could, beyond facilitating the process of implementation, also help expand circular actions into other priority sectors. These include sectors such as construction, textiles, mobility and food. More generally, the intention is to cover the entire chain of production and consumption, starting with sustainable product design. As such, some of the key issues to be discussed in this regard under the Finnish Presidency’s helm include opportunities stemming from product policy, digitalization as a way to promote circular economy, follow-up measures on the interface between product and waste legislation, as well as funding for circular economy.

The Finnish Presidency will work to prepare conclusions on the circular economy, which should set out ways for the new Commission to promote circular economy during its term. These will be discussed at the Environment Council’s meeting on 4 October.

In addition, during their discussions, the Ministers highlighted new businesses opportunities from moving from a single-use culture to a circular economy. Improved materials recycling, they said, can help address some of the key challenges the EU is facing, including climate change and biodiversity loss. Both manufacturing and consumption should be based on the 6 Rs of sustainability, namely “refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, remanufacture, and recycle”.

During the meeting, EU Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella and the Vice-President VP for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen delivered keynote speeches. Commissioner Vella emphasized the need to focus on waste prevention, not only recycling, when looking at the transition to circularity, noting that some Member States already have programmes in this area and that targets could also be considered. Meanwhile, during his address, VP Katainen stressed in particular the need to create a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials. He also highlighted sustainable finance taxonomy and green public procurement as important tools in the transition to circular economy.

Please see find here the Finnish Presidency’s press release and here more information on the Presidency’s views on circular economy 2.0.