Circular economy – Overview
What is the circular economy about?
A circular economy aims to maintain the value of products, materials and resources for as long as possible by returning them into the product cycle at the end of their use, while minimising the generation of waste. The fewer products we discard, the less materials we extract, the better for our environment.
This process starts at the very beginning of a product’s lifecycle: smart product design and production processes can help save resources, avoid inefficient waste management and create new business opportunities.
What are the benefits?
The circular economy offers an opportunity to reinvent our economy, making it more sustainable and competitive. This brings benefits for European businesses, industries, and citizens such as:
- more innovative and efficient ways of producing and consuming;
- protection for businesses against scarcity of resources and volatile prices;
- opportunities for local jobs and social integration;
- optimisation of waste management which boosts recycling and reduces landfill;
- energy savings as less production processes requires less energy;
- benefits for the environment in terms of climate and biodiversity, air, soil and water pollution.
What is the European Commission doing and what is Eurostat's role?
Action on the circular economy ties in closely with key EU policy priorities and with global efforts on sustainable development.
In 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious 'Circular Economy Package'. An EU Action Plan for the circular economy establishes a concrete programme of actions outlining measures that cover the entire product life cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. As part of the Action Plan, the European Commission adopted a new set of measures in 2018.
In addition, the circular economy has strong synergies with the EU’s objectives on climate and energy and with the Commission’s package on 'Clean Energy for all Europeans'. The circular economy is also instrumental in supporting the EU’s commitments on sustainability, as outlined in the Communication ‘Next steps for a sustainable European future’ and in particular to reach Sustainable Development Goal 12 'Responsible consumption and production'.
Eurostat's role is to provide easy access to the relevant data for citizens and policy makers in order to support the monitoring progress. Monitoring allows the European Commission and other policy makers to keep track of the progress made and assess the effectiveness of their actions. It also provides a clear signal to economic actors such as business and consumers on ongoing trends.
Explore our monitoring framework tool which will help you to easily evaluate your country's progress towards a circular economy by displaying all relevant indicators.
Our visualisation tool will help you to learn more about the circular economy in an easily-understandable and fun way.
Explore the simplified life cycle of materials in the EU from the beginning through to material processing to their different uses and final stages.