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Social and environmental spillovers of the EU circular economy transition

AUTHORS: Agata Meysner – Jesus Urios – Emma Watkins – Eline Blot – Thorfinn Stainforth – Antoine Oger

Material consumption in the European Union is high and rising, creating significant environmental and social impacts along the value chain from raw material extraction to treatment of waste both inside and outside the EU. Several circular economy initiatives have been put forward or are expected to be implemented to slow and reduce this material throughput and therefore to mitigate its environmental and social consequences. However, all circular economy policies can have positive as well as negative environmental and social spillovers, which should be carefully assessed in policy design.

This series of briefings assesses social and environmental spillovers associated with the EU’s circular transition in the key sectors: electric and electronic equipment, plastics, fertilisers and transport. Each briefing sets out the policy context and outlines the material flows associated with the consumption of materials in each sector. It continues with an overview of circular economy policies in a relevant sector as well as their potential positive and negative environmental and social spillovers, respectively, both inside and outside the EU. Each briefing concludes with policy recommendations for a socially and environmentally just circular economy transition. 

The ‘right to repair’ – Addressing social and environmental spillovers in the electrical and electronic equipment sectorThis briefing maps out some of the principal spillovers that may be associated with the itnroduction of the ‘right to repair’ in the EEE sector in particular, including implications for job creation, labour standards and the role of social economy actors in the repair economy, as well as possible rebound effects both inside and outside the EU, and sets out some initial policy recommendations to address them.Author: Jesus Urios, Agata Meysner
Towards greater plastics circularity – Addressing social and environmental spillovers in the plastics sectorThe consumption of plastic products in the EU creates significant environmental and social impacts along the whole value chain. Whilst the EU has in place a range of policies and legislation relevant to plastics, this briefing outlines some additional recommendations to address the potential negative spillovers from the pursuit of greater plastics circularity. Author: Emma Watkins
The fertiliser transition – Addressing social and environmental spillovers in the fertiliser sectorThe European Green Deal implementation would make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 by reduced GHG emissions by 55% compared with the 1990 levels. The agriculture sector will have a key role to play to reach this objective as it is expected to become the single largest emission source in the EU by 2030.Author: Antoine Oger
Net-zero, circular transition in road transport – Addressing social and environmental spillovers of materials demand changes in the road transport sector The European Commission proposed a zero-emission road mobility target for 2035 to reduce emissions produced by new passenger cars by 100% compared to 2021. Electric vehicles (EVs) are set to play a key role in decarbonising EU road transport, however, the net-zero transitionw ill have implications for the EU’s material demand and waste generation. Author: Eline Blot, Thorfinn Stainforth

© Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

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