Monitoring progress of the circular economy in the EU


The European Commission’s draft monitoring framework for a circular economy, which is currently under review, 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 Environment Protection Agencies (EPAs), with PBL as lead author.

European Commission’s draft monitoring framework

The European Commission has circulated a draft version of its circular economy monitoring framework, to be finalised later this year. In this draft, the European Commission proposes 10 indicators for such a framework, pertaining to issues, such as self-sufficiency of critical materials, recycling rates for waste sources (e.g. municipal waste) and waste types (e.g. plastics, construction and demolition material), and green public procurement and trade in secondary materials.

EPAs jointly propose additional elements

In their joint discussion paper, the EPAs propose to broaden the framework of the European Commission, so that it also includes indicators on absolute quantities of resource flows and footprint indicators showing whether the burden is being shifted to outside the EU. The EPAs also propose to include indicators that facilitate assessment of the progress in the implementation of measures needed for the transition process. Furthermore, the discussion paper recommends data collection on EU and Member State levels, as well as on product level.

Smart information system that also facilitates learning

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

The discussion paper has been prepared by a group of Environment Protection Agencies at the initiative of the EPA network. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency is lead author of this paper and coordinated the work. The EPAs work on the interface between environmental science and policy-making, on both Member State, EU and international levels.