A circular economy – where goods are reused, recycled or repurposed – could be one way to avoid overexploiting our planet’s natural resources.
One of the EU’s priorities is to move to a circular economy. To achieve this, it is currently looking at how to make waste, chemicals and recycling law work in harmony. It is also examining how to track and reduce dangerous chemicals in everyday products.
ClientEarth lawyer Alice Bernard said: “We live on a planet with finite resources, so it is essential that our laws pull together to ensure the EU can reuse, recycle and repurpose materials free from dangerous chemicals wherever possible.
“The first step is looking at how the laws interact and finding the areas where they work in harmony, and where they conflict. At the moment, information about dangerous chemicals in products is lost during their lifecycle. This makes it extremely difficult and expensive for companies like recyclers to know whether they can use a product, greatly increasing the risk of it going to landfill.
“Allowing dangerous chemicals in a circular economy would mean infinite exposure of people and the environment to toxics, and perpetrating the mistakes from the past.”
To fix this problem, policymakers must:
- Limit hazardous chemicals entering the material cycle in the first place. This
is not only the best way to protect human health and the environment, but would also facilitate the future use of recovered materials for companies and therefore the circular economy. Prioritising the full implementation of REACH and other legislation restricting the use of hazardous chemicals will be necessary to do this;
- Ensure companies have access to sufficient information on the presence,
location, concentration of hazardous chemicals in products and materials recovered from waste. This will reduce the burden on businesses making products with recovered materials, and improve the protection of human health and the environment in a circular economy;
- Make sure the laws are equally as protective when products are made from recovered materials as when they’re made from new materials. This means requiring appropriate decontamination of waste before it can be recovered, and requiring that materials are equally safe when first produced, as well as when they are recycled.