Circular economy – opportunity or necessity?

22nd April 2015 Posted by

The upcoming elections and political promises are undoubtedly the main issue for UK waste-watchers. The Resource Association’s ‘Manifesto for resources 2015‘, issued at the end of March posed some interesting and challenging suggestions for the consideration of all political parties running up to the May General Election.

Having recently completed some work for the EU on systematic eco-design innovation, the one thing that became very clear to me, was that the European transition to a more circular economy is not just an opportunity. In many areas and fields it is a necessity in order to maintain industries and business and to support the quality of life of EU residents.

An internationally competitive EU industrial base could be achieved by using low-energy solutions and energy-efficiency to counter relatively high raw energy costs. Additionally that same industrial base could be supported by the consumer resource bank of materials (the materials used today, that will become waste at some point) more cleverly, to help mitigate the relative EU raw material scarcity. Adopting innovative systems in the design, use and dismantle, repair and recovery of products could also be used to make the whole system very ‘man-hour’ efficient and thereby countering our relatively high labour costs.

The whole circular economy approach cannot be seen by politicians as just a ‘nice to have’, or even just as an essential element for climate change mitigation or environmental sustainability. The adoption of a sustainable circular economy approach is essential to maintain and improve the quality of life of the residents of their constituencies.

Just think what might be if other countries with relatively low energy and labour costs and easier access to competitively priced raw materials adopted the circular economy approach before the UK and EU.

But let’s not forget though, that helping in the transition of the existing linear industries – through regulation, aid in financing the necessary reinvestments and some clear insight into future policy/opportunities – is essential in gaining confidence, buy-in and starting those linear industries on the journey towards circularity.

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