On April 22nd, as global leaders gather to celebrate Earth Day and the world starts its slow return to a sense of normality, 2021 pushes industries, governments, and society alike to do more than going back to business-as-usual. It pushes for collective forward-thinking actions to “Restore Our Earth” and set a driving example for future generations. One of those examples is none other than embracing the principles of circular economy. Forty-five percent (45%) of all the emissions contributing to the climate change on the Planet Earth are coming from the manufacturing of products. Rooted on three basic principles (elimination of waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems), circular economy has the structural impetus and the transformation capacity to redesign how we plan, produce, and consume everything around us.
In unpredictable times (such as COVID-19), the application of circular economy can become a driver of inclusive and sustainable industrial development by mitigating climate change and preventing waste. By reevaluating metrics and indicators and training industries in decoupling economic growth from resource use, it also brings value-creation opportunities that can be integrated into technical, biological, and behavioural processes across all industries. Concretely, it can tackle waste reduction straight from the source, such as in the case of steel, aluminium, plastic, and cement production, all which account for 60% of global industrial emissions. By introducing a paradigm shift in the way the products are manufactured, the issue of increasing temperatures on our planet could be tackled.
This is one of the many reasons why the European Union is also propelling the agenda on sustainable growth, concentrating thus, on a transition to a circular economy which reduces the pressure on natural resources and creates sustainable growth and green jobs. Under the “Circular Economy new Growth Opportunities” component of the EU-funded “EU4Environment” Action the six partner countries of the Easter Partnership are assisted in increasing the efficiency with which they use materials, water and energy, improving their productivity and, overall, their competitiveness. It is done by training national experts in resource efficient and cleaner production (RECP) methods, by improving the understanding of circular economy benefits among Small and Medium Sized Enterprises individually or in groups, and by piloting eco-industrial parks and industrial waste maps.
Working with the Government and private sector to support the adoption of RECP and circular economy practices in industries helps countries achieve concrete steps towards the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development by acting both strategically (scaling up the demonstration projects to influence system-levels) and operationally (via integrated approaches which build new frameworks). In this way, the EU4Environment Action serves as a window of opportunity for combating climate change and environment destruction by introducing new ways to engage businesses into dialogue and action.
The European Commission new circular economy action plan (CEAP) is a building block of the European Green Deal.