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Circular Economy

THE NEW EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL

Circular Economy

From the website of the European Commission we learn that no less than 1,000,000,000.00 (one trillion) euros will be invested in the new development strategy in the countries of the European Union.

Climate change and environmental degradation are a huge threat to Europe and the world. To overcome these challenges, Europe needs a new growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy in which

  • no more net greenhouse gas emissions are generated in 2050
  • economic growth is decoupled from resource use
  • no person and no place is neglected.

The European Green Deal is our roadmap for making the EU economy sustainable. We will achieve this by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and by making the transition fair and inclusive for all.

The European Green Deal includes an action plan to:

  • promote resource efficiency by moving to a clean and circular economy
  • restoring biodiversity and reducing pollution.

The plan outlines the necessary investments and available financing instruments and explains how to ensure a fair and inclusive transition.

The EU aims to achieve climate neutrality in 2050. We have proposed a European climate law to turn this political commitment into a legal obligation.

Achieving this goal will require action from all sectors of our economy, including:

  • investing in environmentally friendly technologies
  • supporting industry in innovation
  • introducing cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport
  • decarbonising the energy sector
  • making buildings more energy efficient
  • work with international partners to improve global environmental standards

DON'T LET A CRISIS GO TO WASTE

The year 2020 has thrown the world into a chaos that had long been predicted but hardly prepared for. Covid-19 kept a magnifying glass on the flaws of the global economy - flaws that had long been clear, but which the company kept pressing the "silence" button.

For the first time ever, the amount of material consumed by our global economy also exceeded 100 billion tonnes, of which only 8.6% was recycled in the economy - a sobering indicator of the progress we still have to make.

But if we have learned anything from 2020 so far, it is to "never let a crisis go to waste". The pandemic has created a space on the global stage for the concept of 'building back better'. This is an opportunity we must not miss.

We must therefore act decisively to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and to ensure a socially just and ecologically safe space for all. Below are some reflections on how circularity and resilience have become intimately linked to our activities and the wider ecosystem of actors we work with. We also look at the road ahead and what a system fit for an inclusive and resilient 21st century world might look like.

THE PROMISE OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Rarely have the flaws of our global economy come together so prominently as under our collective covid-19 experience. Interdependent global supply chains, material extraction occurring at a faster rate than remanufacturing, and an economic model focused on profit-making and infinite growth at the expense of stability and resilience have been the hallmark of the take-waste tradition. The pandemic only served to pull back the curtain on these defects.

Covid-19 also had a disproportionate impact on low- and middle-income countries and on minority groups within higher-income countries. These impacts included increased rates of infection, deaths and job losses, highlighting deep-seated inequalities in access to basic services such as clean water, health care, safe working conditions and social safety nets. The alarm has been raised once again to address systemic inequalities, and it seems that the world is finally listening that there is no environmental justice without social justice.

Now, the scale of the response must match that of the emergency. By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems, a circular economy allows us to collectively re-imagine and redesign our systems to ensure an ecologically safe and socially just space for all of us. A world in which functioning social systems fall within healthy planetary boundaries. The circular economy now also has the opportunity and duty to further embed equality and resilience into this model.

CITIES

Even before the pandemic, city officials and urban change managers have long been early adopters of the circular economy. It offers a direction in re-imagining cities that are resilient to future shocks and strive for equality and full access. Now, mayors and leaders of the world's largest cities warn that there can be no return to business as usual when economies begin to rebuild.

But to translate the promise of the circular economy into practical and scalable action, they need guidance. Which strategies should be implemented and encouraged, in which sectors, together with which departments and why?

The city of Amsterdam has once again proven to be a leading circular city. The Amsterdam Circular Strategy 2020-2025 reinforces the city's plan to become fully circular by 2050. Integral to the plan is Doughnut Economics, a model developed by Oxford economist Kate Raworth, and scaled up to meet the city's needs by various organisations. In this model it is clear that the circular economy is based on a healthy dynamic between social and ecological issues.

COMPANIES

The pandemic exposed the fragility inherent in many businesses and forced many to prioritise managing the immediate consequences of covid-19. But we have also seen a renewed focus on the importance of risk mitigation and resilience building across businesses of all sizes.

A circular business model is integral to adapting business to be fit for purpose in the 21st century. It is necessary to stimulate and support companies in building their capacity to embrace the changes needed to move from a linear to a circular business model.

COUNTRIES

There can be no global, circular transition without the commitment of countries: they have a mandate to develop national and international legislation and create an enabling environment for the transition. As leading investors in infrastructure, government buildings and assets, their procurement strategy can also kick-start circularity on a large scale. Now, the circular economy is increasingly at the forefront of sustainability strategies for countries around the world.

The Netherlands has initiated circularity in key sectors such as construction and agriculture, for example, and a transformation is needed if the country is to reach its ambitious target of 100% circularity by 2050.

CIRCULAR EMPLOYMENT

The pandemic revealed the fragility and vulnerability of the current labour market, which revolves around maximising efficiency and minimising financial costs. It has also highlighted key questions about how we value, think about and tax work today, including roles we consider vital to society.

The Circular Jobs Initiative (CJI) was launched in March this year by the Circle Economy to ensure the creation of a circular labour market that allows both workers and the planet to thrive.

Because the circular economy relies on more labour-intensive processes than the linear economy - where resources are often wasted or incinerated rather than repaired and reused - the transition is expected to be labour-intensive at first. This is an opportunity to promote decent and equal work and to create new and more diverse skill sets and job roles.

HOW TO DO IT?

The timing of global crises can bring about change. Before the pandemic struck, we were already at a social and economic crossroads. There were growing calls for a systemic transformation away from the dominant capitalist and linear systems. What is needed, then, is a transition to a circular system suited to the world of the 21st century, where production cannot continue to be the dominant principle of our relationship with the world.
Importantly, we are now armed with the knowledge that the economy can be sustained globally and simultaneously. This means that it can change, specifically:

We need to redefine prosperity: Growth for growth's sake is not sustainable, nor does it take into account the well-being of human beings. A socially just space should aim to actively address society's endemic discrimination and racism that limits equality between groups. Ultimately, dominant social, economic and political power structures facilitate processes that benefit neither people nor the planet. A circular economy can aim to facilitate a system that does not perpetuate these same mistakes.

We need to reintegrate with nature and the commons: Humans have long found ways to fix and manipulate nature. But whenever we talk about the circular economy, we essentially invoke the emulation of nature. In the natural world, waste does not exist. Our industrial systems can mirror ecosystems, an increasingly important concept as the scarcity of raw materials increases. Access to and preservation of common goods such as air and water are also key to this.

We need to balance the local and the global: increasingly ambiguous and complex value chains have long been criticised, but it has taken a pandemic to highlight how tragically fragile they are. Workers have been left out of work or throwing goods in the bin that had been left to rot. Many health workers were left without essential equipment. For some localities, the pandemic was a real-time experiment in downsizing the consumer economy, as imports and exports of both goods and people were put on hold. As 'normality' resumes, we can see a persevering notion of 'globalisation' that adapts to the local, but with an ethos of global cooperation.

MAKING SENSE OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY. THE 7 KEY ELEMENTS

FINDING A COMMON LANGUAGE

The circular economy has seen a significant increase in interest in recent years and continues to gain momentum.

With this surge in popularity, many people mention the term 'circular economy' or 'circular principles' without really explaining what they mean. On the other hand, if the term is defined, the definition varies widely depending on the problems addressed, the audience, or the lens through which the author sees the world.

To define a common language for the circular economy, Circle Economy mapped the various terms and definitions used by more than 20 organisations - NGOs, government agencies, universities, consultancies, etc. - working on elements of the topic. - working on elements of the topic. After interpreting and grouping these various terms, seven key elements emerged that defined most of the terms related to the circular economy.

1. Designing for the future

2. Incorporating digital technology

3. Preserving and extending the existing

4. Prioritising regenerative resources

5. Using waste as a resource

6. Rethinking the business model

7. Cooperate to create common value

 

POWERGRASS IS CIRCULAR

With the POWERgrass technology and method now available that allows us to accurately manage all phases of a green area, there is no excuse for investors as to how the fields of the future should be built and maintained. We can all contribute to the development of a circular economy with a positive environmental impact by preserving soil erosion, sequestering carbon in the soil and without polluting.

POWERgrass is a system designed holistically, in collaboration with multidisciplinary experts, to offer a reinforced natural grass pitch designed for professionals that is also adapted to the needs of amateurs.

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