We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) motto for this year's world environment day is "Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care". It reminds us that the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. In this context, the JRC supports the EU's efforts to move towards a more competitive, resource-efficient circular economy.
Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less, and several JRC activities try to achieve this by supporting EU policies linked to recycling, waste management, material-efficient products, efficiency requirements or best available techniques for production.
For instance, the JRC has developed the methodology under which certain valuable waste streams can obtain ‘end-of-waste status’ and become products again. After having agreed this methodology with the Member States, the Commission is now preparing a set of end-of-waste criteria for priority waste streams. The criteria have been laid down for iron, steel and aluminium scrap and next waste streams to be addressed include copper scrap metal, recovered paper, glass cullet, plastics and biodegradable waste/compost.
The JRC has also submitted reports with technical proposals for the end-of-waste criteria on copper scrap metal, recovered paper, glass cullet and is conducting further studies biodegradable waste/compost and plastic.
In addition, the JRC closely collaborates with UNEP in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, protected areas, forests, lands, soils, desertification and land degradation, sustainable energy, life cycle assessment or disaster risk management.
What is a circular economy?
Since the industrial revolution, waste has constantly grown. This is because our economies have used a “take-make-consume and dispose” pattern of growth – a linear model which assumes that resources are abundant, available and cheap to dispose of.
What we need is a more circular economy. This means re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. What used to be regarded as ‘waste’ can be turned into a resource. The aim is to look beyond waste and to close the loop of the circular economy. All resources need to be managed more efficiently throughout their life cycle. Using resources more efficiently will also bring new growth and job opportunities.