15 Jun 2020

The Circular Economy, revised Water Framework Directive and action to reduce food waste

In March 2020, the European Commission adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan - one of the main blocks of the European Green Deal, Europe’s new agenda for sustainable growth. Guidelines have also be produced for the feed use of food no longer intended for human consumption.

The Circular Economy Package

In 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers to make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.

The planned action will contribute to "closing the loop" of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy. The plans will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, fostering energy savings and reducing Green House Gas emissions.

The action plan also covers the full lifecycle of products: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. This transition will be supported financially by the European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF), which include €5.5 billion for waste management. In addition, support will be provided by €650 million under Horizon 2020 (the EU funding programme for research and innovation) and investments in the circular economy at national level.

Revised Waste Framework Directive

On 14 June 2018 the revised Waste Framework Directive (2018/851) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The new waste legislation includes an exclusion for substances destined for use as feed materials (Article 2(2,e)). Also, Recital 8 confirms that when former foodstuffs are placed on the market as safe feed materials, they cannot be downgraded to waste based on interpretation of the by-products criteria by competent environmental control authorities. This is because these materials are already covered by feed legislation. 

The amendment is also relevant in the light of the new definition of “food waste” (Article 3(4,a) – food waste is food that has become waste), as food is prevented from becoming a waste when it is used in feed.  

Member States have until 5 July 2020 to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the revised Waste Framework Directive.

Action to reduce food waste

A Commission Notice “Guidelines for the feed use of food no longer intended for human consumption” has been issued. The Notice is part of the action plan to reduce food waste and is an integral part of the communication on the Circular Economy. One of the initiatives is, without competing with the sourcing of food banks, to valorise the nutrients of food which is, for commercial reasons or due to problems of manufacturing or certain defects, no longer intended for human consumption, through its safe use in animal nutrition, without compromising animal and public health. Thus, the feed use of such food avoids that these materials are composted, transformed in biogas or disposed of by incineration or landfilling. The distinction between food, animal by-products, feed and waste has evident implications with respect to the legislative framework governing the different kinds of products concerned. These Guidelines are intended to address these issues within the existing legal framework for food and feed.