Monitoring progress of the circular economy in the EU


The European Commission’s draft monitoring framework for a circular economy, that is currently out for consultation, may benefit from broadening it to include indicators that measure both the progress of the transition process and the effects in the whole product chain (footprints). This proposal is made in a joint discussion paper by the European Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) under leadership of PBL.

European Commission’s draft monitoring framework

The European Commission has circulated a draft version of their circular economy monitoring framework, planned to be finalised later this year. In this draft, the European Commission proposes ten indicators for such a framework, pertaining to issues like self-sufficiency of critical materials, recycling rates for waste sources (e.g. municipal waste) and waste types (e.g. plastics, construction and demolition), green public procurement and trade in secondary materials.

Joint EPAs propose additional elements

The discussion paper of the joint EPAs proposes to broaden the framework of the European Commission so that it also includes indicators on absolute quantities of resource flows decrease (absolute decoupling), and footprint indicators showing whether the burden is shifted to outside the EU. The joint EPAs also propose to include indicators that facilitate assessing the progress in implementing measures needed for the transition process. Furthermore, the discussion paper recommends assembling data on EU and Member States level, but also on product level.

Smart information system that also facilitates learning

Measuring some of the additional elements proposed by the joint EPAs may need more knowledge and data than is currently available, but it is nevertheless important for tracking the progress of the transition towards a circular economy. These additional elements will furthermore lift the monitoring framework from measuring compliance to a smart information system that also facilitates learning about the transition, while taking into account administrative burdens.

The discussion paper has been prepared by a group of Environmental Protection Agencies on the initiative of the European EPA-network. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency coordinated this work, and is also lead author of this discussion paper. The relevance of the discussion paper is anchored in the experience of the EPAs in working on the interface between environmental science and policy-making, on both a Member State and European/international level.

Download the discussion paper (pdf)

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