These changes in EU legislation come as part of a wider drive to create a sustainable ‘circular economy’. To fully understand what a circular economy entails, we should first take a look at our current model of production:
Extract – Produce – Use – Dispose.
This applies as much to tangible materials that could otherwise be recycled as it does to more abstract assets like energy and gas.
The two ends of the supply chain are unsustainable. For the extraction end, there’s only a limited supply of resources to extract from the earth, and the extraction process of these materials is often environmentally damaging. On the other end of the scale, there’s only so much space available for landfill use, the use of which is also environmentally damaging.
The essence of circular economy proposals is that the two unsustainable ends of the supply chain can be linked up, making the entire process self-sustaining. For immediate materials, we know this as recycling. However, recycling is just one cog in the machine, and the wider circular economy drive seeks to apply this logic to as many aspects of production as possible.