The Circular Economy Action Plan

The Circular Economy Action Plan focuses on EU achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and decoupling economic growth from resource use.

The plan has a strong component regarding construction materials and building process, as the built environment has a high impact on quality of life, local job creation and most sectors of the economy.

From material extraction to waste and emissions, the built environment requires vast amounts of resources and accounts for the following:

– approx. 50% of all extracted material

– approx. 35% of the EU’s total waste generation

– est. 5-12% of total national greenhouse gas emissions from material extraction, manufacturing of construction products, construction and renovation of buildings

By improving material efficiency, those emissions could be reduced by 80%.

The Commission will launch a new comprehensive Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment which is looking to exploit the potential for increasing material efficiency and reducing climate impacts.

This Strategy will add a level of coherence across relevant policy areas such as: climate, energy, resource efficiency, management of construction and demolition waste, accessibility, digitalization and skills, with the aim of promoting circularity principles throughout the lifecycle of buildings.

The main focus areas of the circularity principles are as follows:

  1. To address the sustainability performance of construction products (in the context of the revision of the Construction Product Regulation). This includes the possible introduction of recycled content requirements for certain construction products and accounting for both their safety and functionality;
  2. To promote measures for durability and adaptability improvements for built assets in line with the circular economy principles for buildings design;
  3. To develop digital logbooks for buildings;
  4. To use Level(s) to integrate life cycle assessments in public procurement and the EU sustainable finance framework, together with exploring the appropriateness of setting carbon reduction targets and the potential of carbon storage;
  5. To consider a revision of material recovery targets set in EU legislation for construction and demolition waste and its material-specific fractions;
  6. To promote initiatives for reducing soil sealing, rehabilitation of abandoned or contaminated brownfields;
  7. To increase the safe, sustainable and circular use of excavated soils.

Another very important topic is the ‘Renovation Wave’ initiative (European Green Deal), which will be implemented in line with circular economy principles such as optimized lifecycle performance and longer life expectancy of build assets.

As part of the revision of the recovery targets for construction and demolition waste, the Commission will have a major focus on insulation materials, which generate a high waste stream.

The associated costs for recovery from construction and demolition, together with how cost-effective certain materials will be to recover, are open to discussion.

The main takeaway from The Circular Economy Action Plan is that waste prevention and reduction is EU high interest topic and developers will be motivated and potentially incentivized to develop smart strategies for long-term climate-neutral buildings.