Europe is leading the way globally in creating a Circular Economy with an ambitious commitment to slash waste sent to landfill by 90% and recycle 75% of packaging by 2030.
But with hundreds of policies being developed at country and EU level, it is important to streamline their scope and identify where the true focus should be, says a new report by Sofies, an international sustainability project management and consulting firm.
The Circular Economy for Europe: bridging the gap between policy and implementation report maps and assesses the Circular Economy policy initiatives at the EU level, as well as at the national governmental level in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Over 87 policy initiatives related to circular economy – spanning from end-of-life to product design and repairability - were found to be in development in the target countries, an astounding number.
The most popular policy topics were communications about sustainability (9.6% of policy elements), waste management (8.7% of policy elements) and Eco-design (8.1% of policy elements).
Given the high number of policy initiatives and elements identified, it would require substantial administrative time and resources for businesses to keep track of them all. For example, assuming one analyst was able to track 5 policies at a time within a business, a company would need around 17 analysts to follow all 87 mapped policy initiatives.
To speed the transition from the traditional linear resource-intensive economy to a Circular Economy, smart, consistent and harmonised regulations across and within the EU are required.
The public overwhelmingly wants companies and industries to be socially and environmentally responsible, with surveys showing 77% of EU citizens willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. When it comes to the packaging of those products, a large majority of Europeans said they were also willing to pay more for products with sustainable packaging.
So, given the demand from consumers for sustainable products and the instrumental role businesses play in achieving a circular economy, policy must facilitate this through the successful execution of sustainable initiatives, particularly as many businesses are already eager to engage in these issues, as further shown in the Ecommerce Europe report 'Collaborative Report on Sustainability and E-commerce in Europe'.
To do this, policies need to be streamlined.
Says report co-author Federico Magalini: “We should capitalise on a number of ambitious policy proposals that can contribute to companies’ transition towards a true circular economy, whilst ensuring simplification and harmonisation of the numerous sustainable product initiative requirements already being developed at national Member state level.”
A variety of policy initiatives has already been developed in Europe, with almost half of them covering operations (47%), then product & product packaging (37%) and relationship towards costumers (16%). But collaboration between industry actors and policymakers is essential for success. Policies that are harmonised and uncomplicated for businesses to implement without compromising environmental ambitions will smooth the road to a Circular Economy the public demands.
Comments Paolo Falcioni, Director General of APPLiA, a trade association for Europe’s home appliance industry: “This great piece of work shows the breadth and width of the challenge in front of us: to identify the right policy options to improve product sustainability. It would be great to establish a metric which identifies the most relevant policy elements - out of the 471 identified - as soon as possible. I feel a real sense of urgency regarding the deliverance of more sustainable products, coupled with the task of focusing only on what really matters."
To that end, the Circular Economy for Europe: bridging the gap between policy and implementation report identifies the topics most covered by policy in EU Member States. It then makes key recommendations to the European Commission to help ensure a level-playing field for businesses that is simple and incentivises the offer of sustainable products and packaging.
Summary of recommendations for the European Commission:
- Harmonised eco-design standards and eco-labelling requirements across the EU to facilitate compliance and avoid fragmentation between Member States, which are developing initiatives on repairability and durability indexes prior a full alignment with initiatives at EU level.
- Tax incentives for recycled/reused goods market and repair services as well as to promote donation of unsold goods by businesses to charitable causes.
- Harmonised EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) implementation across Member States for all targeted waste streams and establishment of a central coordination mechanism at EU level for the registration and reporting of batteries put-on-market to allow businesses to easily comply with EPR regulations related to all the products sold in any given European country, while at the same time reducing the administrative and financial burden of registering.
- Information on product sustainability: Product information must be standardised (e.g., consumer information on repairability, environmental footprint etc.) and policy initiatives such as the Digital Product Passport (DPP) must be aligned with existing reporting systems to avoid overlap of administrative work and data duplication (e.g., avoid overlap of DPP with Substances of Concern In Products (SCIP), or the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH).
About Sofies: sofiesgroup.com
Method of Research