CALL 5: The transition to a circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised, is a priority for the EU . Water is one of those key resources in the transition and the circular urban water management is of a particular focus.
Waste water is the largest untapped waste category of circular economy. Re-use of water (for instance for urban irrigation) could improve from separation of water from chemical contaminants. Water and waste water systems are significant energy consumers in Europe (according to ENERWATER project (H2020) the 22 000 waste water treatment plants in Europe use more than 1% of the overall electricity consumption in the EU) . The European Commission adopted in February 2018 a proposal for a revised drinking water directive to improve the quality of drinking water and provide greater access and information to citizens. It will help EU countries to manage drinking water in a resource-efficient and sustainable manner so as to reduce energy use and unnecessary water loss. It will also help reduce the number of plastic bottles following increased confidence in tap water, improved access and promotion of use of drinking water. In line with the principles of the new European pillar of social rights, the proposal contains an obligation for EU countries to improve access to safe drinking water for all and to ensure access for vulnerable and marginalised groups.
At the same time, the European Commission has launched an evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Directive with the objective to identify what has worked and what are the remaining key challenges in the collection and treatment of urban waste waters.
Among the many sectors facing specific challenges in the context of the circular economy, the European Commission is also taking decisive steps on plastic recycling. In May 2018 was proposed new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear, as part of European Plastics Strategy to tackle wasteful and damaging plastic litter. The measures proposed will contribute to Europe's transition towards a Circular Economy, and to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the EU's climate commitments and industrial policy objectives.
CALL2: According to the action plan set out by the EU, a transition to the circular economy will contribute in the efforts to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy. It will allow for products, materials and resources to be maintained for as long as possible in the economy reducing the generation of waste.
In Europe, cities are home to over 70% of the population and they centralise the bigger part of its economic activity and growth. Cities are heavily dependent on external resources to meet the demands of their citizens for food and energy for instance. It is also in cities where most goods are consumed generating large volumes of waste. Urban authorities therefore provide the ideal context for the development of the circular economy thanks to their close proximity to their inhabitants, service providers, and businesses.
Another important priority stated by the action plan concerns water reuse. Water scarcity and droughts have worsened in some parts of the EU in recent decades, with damaging effects on our environment and economy. Climate change projections point to a worsening situation as regards water availability in various parts of Europe. In addition to water-efficiency measures, the reuse of treated wastewater in safe and cost-effective conditions is a valuable means of increasing water supply and alleviating pressure on over-exploited water resources in the EU.