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Policy enablers to accelerate the circular economy: Scaling up actions across regions and stakeholders
Over the past couple of years, as companies start to understand the opportunities that lie under the concept of circular economy, the circularity conversation has gained significant momentum. At the same time, national and regional governments are developing frameworks and regulations to promote the circular economy.
Effective policymaking is crucial to accelerate and scale up circular actions in the economy. It supports businesses in overcoming hurdles by stimulating innovative projects and long-term investments in circularity, facilitating collaboration and partnerships, and producing tangible results.
Learning from successful policies can help inform future policies to promote wider actions in other sectors and regions over time.
By highlighting some representative pioneers in circular economy policy, exploring key enablers from these policies, describing how other regions could replicate these enablers and providing recommendations, this publication aims to provide insights from the policy perspective and to feed into the ongoing development of other initiatives and policies related to the circular economy globally.
Public authorities will soon be encouraged to apply the Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) approach to their policies thanks to a new Interreg Europe project, LCA4Regions. The 9 project partners met for the first time in Brussels, on 30 September and 1 October 2019, the with support of ACR+.
Vlaanderen Circulair (Circular Flanders) is the hub and inspiration for the Flemish circular economy. It is a partnership of policymakers, companies, civil society, and the knowledge community taking action together. Its six core activities are:
- Networking partners to tackle circular economy challenges
- Creating knowledge with the Circular Economy Policy Research Centre to streamline policy-related research into policy measures for the circular economy in Flanders
- Speeding up innovation and entrepreneurship
- Assisting pioneers
- Connecting local, Flemish, federal and European policymaking
- Embedding circular principles across Flemish civil society
Key to the Circular Flanders approach are several pillars with a great deal of potential, which bridge and bring together different sectors. Currently, these are circular purchasing, circular cities, and running circular businesses.
be circular be.brussels
Through the Brussels Regional Programme for a Circular Economy, the government of the Brussels-Capital Region has defined a framework to encourage the transformation of a linear economy (extract – produce – consume – dispose) into a circular economy (recover – produce – consume – reuse) within Brussels.
The be circular portal is the entry point to the BRPCE, and networks the regional government with businesses and civil society delivering change on the ground, while also providing information to entrepreneurs about the various direct and indirect support programmes available.
Its projects include the Annual General Meeting linking more than 300 Brussels and European participants, and yearly Prizes for Circular Entrepreneurship. In 2017, be circular supported 222 entrepreneurs and financed 139 projects. A year later, the programme had reached nearly 1,300 businesses.
be circular also collects good practices from the Brussels region, with a particular focus on its four priority sectors: construction, logistics, retail and waste management.
Riihimäki's circular economy roadmap
The town of Riihimäki is already a member of FISU (Finnish Sustainable Communities), a network of Finnish municipalities committed to becoming waste-free, and has now adopted a circular economy roadmap focusing on the participation of local actors.
In 2017, the local authorities asked the 29,000 inhabitants of this town what sustainable choices they would be ready to make and how the municipal council could best enable these. Inhabitants also contributed ideas to develop the resource efficiency of Riihimäki.
The circular economy and resource efficiency roadmap of Riihimäki covers five themes:
- Carbon neutral energy production and consumption
- Sustainable circulation and ecologically efficient town structure
- Sustainable consumption of natural resources and circular economy
- Diversity of nature and comfortable living environment
- Inhabitant responsibility in Riihimäki.
Every one of these themes is dealt with by taking into account the following points of view:
- Vision for 2050
- Methods of working: who realises the vision
- Actions, ideas, commitments and promises
- Measures and indicators for monitoring and follow-up.
In addition to municipal actions, the Riihimäki roadmap also includes commitments to circular economy by local companies and communities. The roadmap also accentuates the education of students and recent graduates with the aim of incorporating the circular economy into all professional fields.
As cooperation is central to circular economym, the Riihimäki roadmap’s guiding principle is to increase cooperation between different communities and companies. The aim is to share good practice by developing a cluster that will monitor how companies are progressing and promote circular economy cooperation.
Vantaa creating business opportunities based on the circular economy
In the framework of the CIRCWASTE project, coordinated by SYKE (Finnish Environment Institute), pioneering municipalities have developed local circular economy roadmaps in 2019. This roadmap, adopted by Finland's fourth biggest city, is based first and foremost on what stakeholders identify as local strengths, special characteristics and challenges.
Vantaa’s roadmap lists the priorities, objectives and actions to take in 2019-2030 that could a promote circular economy locally. Its priorities are the following:
- circular business models
- circular economy in construction
- circular public procurement
- sharing economy.
The objectives are to be reached by 2030 in four timeframes, with responsibility for implementation shared among several local stakeholders that vary from municipal utilities to private companies. Specific indicators have been developed to measure and report on progress.
To stimulate circular business models locally, the municipality will set up a local cluster in cooperation with Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY.
Vantaa’s roadmap also puts a strong emphasis on construction and land use, committing to increase local (re)-use of soil and recycled materials in construction, which should reduce GHG emissions from transport. The use of demolished concrete has already increased and become fairly commonplace in infrastructure projects. It is used in street structures, repairs of building elevations and green landscaping.
In addition to this, Vantaa aims to develop a set of procurement criteria incorporating circular economy principles. As the circular economy benefits the natural environment, businesses and residents alike, cooperation among stakeholders is central to implementation of the roadmap.
Porvoo's circular economy roadmap
In the framework of the CIRCWASTE project, coordinated by SYKE (Finnish Environment Institute), pioneering municipalities have developed local circular economy roadmaps in 2019. The City of Porvoo is one of these and published its own circular economy roadmap in May 2019 to steer efforts that promote resource efficiency and circular economy in the coming years, so it can build on successes to date that range.
A steering group of 16 municipal civil servants and other local stakeholders drafted this roadmap, which focuses in particular on the following objectives:
- increasing the use of recycled materials in excavation and building sites
- cooperating to improve energy efficiency
- reducing the amount of total waste while increasing the level of recycling municpal waste.
The amount of high-quality soil and rock is not increasing in Finland, nor is the land area growing. This is why in Porvoo stakeholders are desiging a built environment that takes into account the sustainable use of soil materials and other resources.
Porvoo also aims to reduce food waste and improve the recycling of municipal waste through counselling and outreach for and to citizens. The impact of counselling on the volume of food waste is monitored at schools by weighing plate waste, for example. In addition to this, Porvoo will promote waste sorting by improving the quality of the recycling network using life-cycle analysis.
The roadmap also includes specific circular economy tasks and challenges for the local authorities and companies of the City of Porvoo to implement, with the most urgent having a completion date of 2020 while others have targets for 2030.
Circular Flanders is conducting in-depth research on how car-sharing can contribute as much as possible to more efficient use of materials and a better environment, and is ready to share the outcome at this workshop in Leuven on 7 November 2019.
Central Finland's circular economy roadmap
In the framework of the CIRCWASTE project, Southwest Finland developed a circular economy roadmap in late 2018 to help implementation of the national waste plan and define regional objectives with concrete measures to achieve these.
The Finnish Environment Institute formed an expert network on circular economy, and began identifying regional strengths and special characteristics to start with.
In 2018, the Central Finland region produced approximately 1,8 million tonnes of different kinds of waste. Stakeholders thus sought to focus on waste management during the drafting process, and received training on, for example, plastic lifespan and creativity in the circular economy alongside many networking opportunities.
While the overarching theme is public procurement, the regional strategy focuses on the following sectors in particular:
- construction and demolition waste (62% of all waste in the region)
- biodegradable waste, biogas and the nutrient reuse (approximately 30% of non-recycled waste is biodegradable waste)
- plastics (in 2018 households generated approximately 6,000 tonnes of such waste)
- electric and electronic wreckage (in 2018 citizens generated approximately 6,000 tonnes of such waste)
This roadmap seeks to reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste and increase reuse of such waste to 70%. The partial activities helping to reach the targets are listed in the roadmap.
Different stakeholders, ranging from municipal or regional authorities, to national institutes, educational establishments, and private companies will take responsibility for implementation.
North Karelia's circular economy roadmap
In 2018, Finland's easternmost region of North Karelia adopted a circular economy roadmap as part of the CIRCWASTE project. Its objectives are to:
- enhance material and energy efficiency and improve natural resource use
- make circular economy inherent to industrial production in priority sectors and strengthen the regional cooperation network in the field of circular economy
- strengthen and stimluate new circular business models while developing new technological solutions and know-how in the region.
Regarding waste management overall, this strategy aims to increase knowledge and change overall consumer attitudes.
A system to recycle construction waste is set for development, and will focus on logistics, demolition methods and supervision. This strategy aims to improve training concerning waste management in particular, and motivate companies to consider waste already in the planning stage.
As for municipal waste management, the strategy hopes to improve the collection network and logistics by creating incentives and introducing monitoring systems.
The objectives are to be reached in different timeframes by 2030. For each partial target, responsibilities have been shared among various actors: municipalities, the Regional Council of North Karelia, private companies, educational establishments, organisations etc.
South Karelia's circular economy roadmap
The circular economy roadmap of the South Karelia region in Finland, along the Russian border, was drawn up at the end of 2018 in the framework of the CIRCWASTE project. The Finnish Environment Institute formed an expert network on circular economy, and began by identifying regional strengths and specific characteristics.
In South Karelia, stakeholders set the objectives of circular economy as
- Sustainable wellbeing, no emissions, no waste, or excessive consumption
- More jobs and business activity in the field of environment
- Strengthening of knowledge and training in environmental and circular economy issues.
Stakeholders at different levels are responsible for achieving specific targets, and range from the regional development council to municipalities, private companies, networks, universities and other educational establishments, etc.
For manufacturing, this strategy focuses on construction and mining, energy efficiency, renewable energies, reducing CO2 emissions, increasing recycling and improving waste management.
Regarding bio-based industries such as forestry in particular, this strategy focuses on by-products, nutrient recycling, and developing new products and materials.
To develop intelligent public services, the region is hoping to stimulate the sharing economy and improve digital services.
This strategy perceives the factors enabling circular economy as citizen engagement, research cooperation, developing educational curricula, and the role of government procurement.
South Karelia's performance will be monitored using the following indicators:
- the amount and level of recycled municipal waste
- the amount and level of recycled construction and demolition waste
- the amount of biodegradable municipal waste and the amounts of composted or decomposed biodegradable municipal waste
- the amount and level of electrical or electronics waste.
The region has also set itself goals to:
- create 500 new jobs in environmental businesses by 2030
- increase by 20% the number of businesses in waste management and recycling within the region.
In the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities and as part of the Urban Agenda Partnership for Circular Economy, a session on Circular Economy as a strategy for cities and regions will be organised on 8 October 2019.
Southwest Finland's circular economy roadmap
In the framework of the CIRCWASTE project, Southwest Finland developed a circular economy roadmap to implement the national waste plan and define regional objectives with concrete measures to achieve these.
The Finnish Environment Institute formed an expert network on circular economy, and began identifying regional strengths and special characteristics to start with. A regional cooperation group of more than 20 members was founded to work the strategy. It was composed of representatives from various towns, education establishments, the Regional Council of Soutwest Finland, private companies etc.
For Southwest Finland, stakeholders set a focus on sustainable food systems, high-tech industry, transport and logistics. Public services and knowledge exchange with industry, academia and civil society are the overarching themes.
The objectives and measures are classified along the priority sectors:
- biodegradable waste
- nutrient reuse
- municipal waste.
Targeted training and versatile learning materials will advance circular economy in construction, where the strategy aims to generate less waste and increase the use of construction and demolition waste to 70%.
As Southwest Finland is a national frontrunner in making use of agricultural by-products and nutrient reuse, the region wants to build on its strengths and halve food waste by 2030. Another goal in this area is to increase the amount of recycled organic waste to 60%.
Additionally the strategy hopes to decouple municipal waste growth from regional GDP growth, and increase recycling to 55%.
Plateforme Collectif Grand Est
- l’ADEME Grand Est,
- la Région Grand Est,
- la CCI Grand Est,
- la Chambre Régionale des Métiers et de l'Artisanat Grand Est,
- la Direction Régionale de l'Environnement, de l'Aménagement et du Logement Grand Est,
- l’Agence de l’eau Rhin-Meuse,
- le Centre International de Ressources et d'Innovation pour le Developpement Durable,
- l’Institut National de l'Economie Circulaire
ont créé collectif-grandest.org, la plateforme collaborative de l’économie circulaire des acteurs de la région. Ce portail territorial rassemble les initiatives, les acteurs, les connaissances, les outils, les actualités et les événements de l’économie circulaire.
Espace de valorisation, de partage et de rencontre, il est au service des collectivités locales, des entreprises et des associations du territoire.
The Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Centro (CCDRC) together with the University of Coimbra (UC) are hosting an Autumn Course on Circular Economy.
On 9 May 2019, the National Institute for Circular Economy (INEC) and Orée, the two main circular economy organisations in France, presented their collaborative research on the political dynamics of circular economy in Europe and the civil society networks that drive this circular transition.
On 10 October 2019, the Interreg Project REPLACE (REgional PoLicy Actions for Circular Economy) and European Economic and Social Committee will host a side event of the European Week of Regions and Cities on how regional authorities can make use of the SCREEN framework in their circular economy policy instruments.
A coalition of 30+ business, environmental and social associations calls for an ambitious and comprehensive Circular Economy Bill in Scotland.
ACR+, the Association of Cities and Regions for Sustainable Resource Management, celebrated its 25th anniversary in June 2019. At this event, member organisations presented their respective work on the circular economy and committed to continue furthering the circular transition.
ACR+ contributes to the development of sub-national circular economy monitoring and evalution frameworks
ACR+ has made substantial contributions to developing monitoring systems with corresponding indicator sets for urban and regional authorities wanting to accelerate their circular transition. Among others, ACR+ has continued its Circular Europe Network projects within the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy, while also contributing to the CIRCTER final report on sub-national circular economy monitoring.
ACR+ has consistently advocated to accelerate the circular economy, while also showcasing urban best practice in circular economy throughout 2019 at various events across the European continent.
No time to waste: Unlocking the circular potential of the Baltic Sea Region
The "No time to waste: unlocking the circular potential of the Baltic Sea Region" report, prepared by Politiyka Insight for the 10th annual forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) attempts to review the state of circular economy in that region, while assessing the challenges and opportunities connected with a circular transition. The report also looks into the future by trying to identify key trends that will impact the BSR countries until 2030, and on that basis project the future development of the circular economy, along with alternative scenarios.
The report shows that as of 2019 only Finland and Germany have adopted a circular economy strategy, while Poland, Estonia and Sweden are drafting one. On the other hand, there are circular economy projects active or planned in all countries neighbouring the Baltic sea, except for Lithuania and Latvia. According to its baseline scenario, "the transition to a circular economy will only happen partially. Cooperation between the BSR countries will remain on a roughly the same level, with EU policy as the main unifying factor. The most significant changes will be visible in the production sector".
For four days in 2019, Antwerp was the epicentre of the circular economy. More than 750 company leaders, scientists and policy makers from all over the world came to the city from February 24 to 27 for the World Resources Forum (WRF), organised by OVAM - the Public Waste Agency of Flanders. On the menu? Sessions on the power of the circular economy and the link with climate change, and an introduction to numerous pioneering projects and initiatives that are driving the transition.
Join the Interreg Mediteranean Blue and Green Growth communities in Brussels on 19 -20 September 2019 for 2 days of capacity building and knowledge exchange - including a showcase of 28 projects helping a sustainable transition on Europe's Southern coast.
Brussels construction industry roadmap towards a circular economy
The Brussels Regional Programme for a Circular Economy is Belgium's capital region strategic effort towards a circular economy. Within this programme, the Brussels construction industry with its 12,000 businesses is a priority sector. As construction and facilities management accounts for 98% of water use, 75% energy demand and 33% of waste in Brussels, there is great potential for a substantial contribution to a circular transition.
This roadmap, developed in partnership with the Environmental Agency through 3 stakeholder workshops, includes three gradual steps towards circular building in Brussels:
- voluntary measures by construction businesses by 2025
- comprehensive regulation for circular public buildings by 2030
- reforming all relevant local planning regulations to include circular principles by 2040
While the latter goal remains to be clearly defined and prepared, the voluntary measures by companies and regulatory update for public buildings have already been transformed into actionable steps, e.g. revising training curricula in vocational and professional schools with a circular mindset or setting up monitoring systems to track the flow of resource and waste from Brussels' largest construction sites.