Europe's Consumption: Circular Economy Essential

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by KnowESG
KnowESG_Circular economy and europe
Image courtesy of Freepik

Unsustainable consumption, both in Europe and globally, stands as a key catalyst for climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Recent briefings from the European Environment Agency (EEA) emphasise that while efficiency gains in production have mitigated certain environmental impacts, they alone cannot render European consumption sustainable. A more profound transformation of consumption patterns is imperative.

The EEA's briefings titled 'Environment and climate pressures from household consumption in Europe' and 'Conditions and pathways for sustainable and circular consumption in Europe' delve into the assessment of consumption volumes in Europe and explore avenues for fostering circular and sustainable household consumption.

The EEA's analysis reveals that between 2000 and 2019, the majority of environmental pressures resulting from household consumption in Europe were either relatively stable or increased.

Although greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutant emissions exhibited a decrease, there was a rise or relative stability in the use of land, materials, and water. Concurrently, household consumption within the EU witnessed a 26% increase, with around three-quarters of expenditure allocated to food, housing, and services.

The EEA briefing highlights the unsustainability of Europe's current consumption trends, underscoring that efficiency gains within the production value chain may not sufficiently offset the escalating consumption levels in the long term. Moreover, numerous ecosystems are already strained beyond their capacity to regenerate.

The EEA's briefing on conditions and pathways for sustainable and circular consumption in Europe emphasises that embracing a more circular economy characterised by increased reuse, reduced waste, and heightened consideration for biodiversity can significantly alleviate the adverse impacts of consumption. This necessitates robust policies, novel business models, and shifts in consumption patterns.

More specifically, the EEA briefing outlines that a reduction in pressures and impacts can be achieved by shifting consumption towards products and services that use fewer materials or rely on renewable and recycled resources.

Additionally, consuming less through practices such as prolonging product lifespans or implementing sharing models that reduce the demand for new products, as well as scaling up circular product design that enables extended usage and facilitates easier repairs, reuse, and recycling, can contribute to sustainable and circular consumption.

The EEA briefings are supported by an in-depth report from the European Topic Centre on Circular Economy and Resource Use (ETC/CE), which provides comprehensive insights.

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Source: EEA

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