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Creating a Digital Roadmap for a Circular Economy

Creating a Digital Roadmap for a Circular Economy

EPC publication

The EU faces multiple challenges (climate crisis, environmental disasters, a lack of competitiveness, falling behind in the digital race, etc.) that it will need to address if it is to ensure long-term sustainable prosperity for European citizens. At the same time, there are two ongoing transitions – the creation of a circular economy and the digital transformation – that could provide the means to address these challenges, if they are managed well.

As the EU and national policymakers are making significant efforts to promote a circular economy on the one hand and a digital economy on the other, Annika Hedberg and Stefan Šipka, together with Johan Bjerkem, argue that it is time to align the agendas as a means to achieve greater sustainability and competitiveness.

This publication:

  • demonstrates what digitalisation means in the context of a circular economy;
  • considers what a greater focus on sustainability would mean for the digital transition;
  • examines the role of the EU policy framework, tools and initiatives in steering a (digital) transition towards a (digital) circular economy and makes recommendations for EU institutions for the next five year.

It suggests that the EU must:

  • think systemically, define a vision and act;
  • provide an adequate governance framework and economic incentives for a (digital) transition to a (digital) circular economy;
  • encourage collaboration across European society and economy as well as globally, and empower its citizens to contribute to the transition.

This Discussion Paper builds on the findings of the EPC’s "Digital Roadmap for a Circular Economy" project of 2017-19 and paves the way for a more extensive final study, scheduled to be published in the late autumn of 2019.

The project has been supported by Aalto University and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) (members of Helsinki EU Office), Central Denmark region, Climate-KIC, the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, Estonian Environment Investment Centre, HP, Orgalim, the province of Limburg, UL, Fondazione Cariplo and Cariplo Factory.

Cycle Terre: excavated soil from urban areas becomes construction raw material

Earth Cycle

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Country: 
France

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Cycle Terre project aims to set up an industrial process to reuse soil extracted from the excavation sites of the new subway and other construction sites in Sevran, France.

Circular Construction in Practice

circular_construction_in_practice

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Author: 
Hubert Bukowski, Wioletta Fabrycka
Publication Date: 
06/2019
Country: 
Poland

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Contact: 
Hubert Bukowski

The report of the Institute of Innovation and Responsible Development, is the result of a collaboration between the representatives of the organizations participating in the "Circular construction in practice" debates under the Polish Circular Hotspot. It presents an analysis of the implementation of the circular model in the construction sector.

First, it identifies the causes of the current state of play, which have elevated the built environment to the top spot among the largest polluters of the natural environment.

Second, it analyses the basic barriers on the way to circular construction.

Third, it presents specific ways to reduce these barriers, with a view to making sustainable construction a reality.

Fourth, special attention is paid to specific, innovative technologies to improve resource efficiency and, as a result, improve the economic, environmental and social impact of the construction sector.

Sharing platform Werflink enables construction companies in Belgium to reduce waste by re-using materials

Werflink - Sharing Platform Construction companies in Belgium

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Country: 
Belgium

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Werflink is an online sharing platform on which construction sites and companies and can share equipment, materials, resources, freight space and facilities. The platform has been set up in collaboration with the Flemish Construction Confederation, construction company BESIX, Circular Flanders and FLOOW2, to create a more circular construction sector.

Circular Economy in Cities - Factsheets - Urban Products System Summary

Circular economy in cities - Products factsheets

Circular Economy In Cities_Factsheets_Products

These factsheets outline circular economy opportunities to design out urban waste and pollution, ensure products and materials maintain their value, and regenerate the natural systems in our cities.

Easy-to-reference, the factsheets are a collation of research and case examples that answer some of the most prevalent questions around what circular economy can bring to cities:

  • Why is change in cities needed?
  • What circular economy opportunities address key urban system issues?
  • What can urban policymakers do to harness circular economy opportunities?
  • What are the potential economic, social, and environmental benefits of these opportunities?

The whole collection of factsheets, by system and phase, is available on the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation website.
 

Circular Economy in Cities - Factsheets - Urban Building System Summary

Circular economy in cities - Buildings factsheets

Circular Economy In Cities_Factsheets_Buildings

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Author: 
Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Arup
Publication Date: 
03/2019
Country: 
United Kingdom

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These factsheets outline circular economy opportunities to design out urban waste and pollution, ensure products and materials maintain their value, and regenerate the natural systems in our cities.

Easy-to-reference, the factsheets are a collation of research and case examples that answer some of the most prevalent questions around what circular economy can bring to cities:

  • Why is change in cities needed?
  • What circular economy opportunities address key urban system issues?
  • What can urban policymakers do to harness circular economy opportunities?
  • What are the potential economic, social, and environmental benefits of these opportunities?

The whole collection of factsheets, by system and phase, is available on the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation website.
 

12 Jun 2019
Stand up innovation on circular economy with nature-based solutions

Stand-up innovation is like stand-up comedy, but instead of comedians performing comedy, scientists, pioneer thinkers, and circular economy pundits set the stage for innovative ideas.

Ok, we promise they’ll throw in a few jokes, too.

Globally, the circular economy movement is gaining momentum, and the Vienna-based NGO, alchemia-nova aims with stand-up Innovation to inspire people to think circular in Austria. This second event of the stand-up innovation event series is focusing on materials in a circular economy. How will they circulate, what does it need for it? Quality, Infrastructure, customers, new laws, …

6 May 2019
Environmental Protection Agency

A 600.000 EUR funding programme to support innovators in Ireland to develop and demonstrate consumer and business solutions that will stimulate the circular economy is now open for applications.

Scaling the Circular Built Environment: pathways for business and government

scaling the circular built environment cover page

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Author: 
WBCSD, Circle Economy
Publication Date: 
12/2018
Country: 
Switzerland

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Contact: 
Brendon Edgerton
Harald Friedl

The built environment, consuming almost half of the world's resources extracted every year and responsible for a massive environmental footprint, is a fundamental sector in the circular transition.The circular economy has great potential to help meet global sustainability targets and the Paris Agreement's goals in particular.
Moving towards a circular built environment involves a shift in roles and business models for stakeholders active in this sector. However, barriers related to culture, regulations, market, technology and education are slowing down the transition.

The private and public sector need to create a level playing field in order for circular materials, products and services to become the new normal in the built environment. This requires bold leadership from both companies and policy-makers who have to transform the market (e.g. by introducing new valuation methods) and implement long-term policies that encourage the scaling of circular solutions (e.g. through circular procurement). Standardization, new forms of collaboration and co-creation processes are essential elements in the transition. Digital innovation, education and information sharing can further drive the change in mindset and culture that is needed to turn the circular built environment into reality.

Cirkelstad

cirkelstad logo
Country: 
Netherlands

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Cirkelstad is a national platform connecting private entrepreneurs and policy-makers who are delivering the transition to a circular economy in pioneering Dutch cities. By facilitating their networking, the platform enables greater impact by spreading best practice.

In addition to a comprehensive database of good practice, research and policy guidelines to inspire practicioners, the Cirkelstad Academie also provides occassional trainings and provides advisory services to aspiring circular projects in Utrecht and Amsterdam.

To learn more about this hands-on network and connect with the 'spinners' coordinating activities in each city, visit the platform here

Modular straw-based eco-modules meet economic, insulation, safety and recyclability requirements

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Country: 
Italy

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Prespaglia offers a product line of modular blocks of pressed straw for the construction sector. The modular eco-blocks are made of straw, clay and pozzolan lime, making them entirely recyclable and biodegradable.

MaterialDistrict: a unique match-making platform for innovative materials

Material District

MaterialDistrict is a unique platform for innovative materials which empowers global innovation by match-making material needs with material solutions in the name of circularity. R&D and design professionals of all industrial sectors use this platform to discover new material solutions daily via MaterialDistrict's independent collection of materials, annually at MaterialDistrict Rotterdam and periodically throughout the year with travelling MaterialDistrict Expo, MaterialDistrict Talks and MaterialDistrict Pop-Up events.

Building Carbon Neutrality in Europe

Cemberau

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Author: 
CEMBUREAU - the European Cement Association
Publication Date: 
10/2018
Country: 
Belgium

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Contact: 
Nikos Nikolakakos

Europe has an ambitious vision of a carbon-neutral future, a vision that integrates energy-intensive industries as well as the construction sector and its entire value chain.

Cement, which binds concrete together, is at the heart of solutions to turn this vision into reality. These solutions span over the entire cement and concrete value chain: from raw materials to production, use, re-use, and recycling.

CEMBUREAU, the European Cement Association, as part of its effort to move towards a carbon-neutral construction sector, has taken stock of progress done since the publication of its 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap in 2013 and mapped routes to a resource-efficient and carbon-neutral built environment.

Building Value: A pathway to circular construction finance

Building Value: A pathway to circular construction finance

Building value image

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Author: 
Aglaia Fischer (Circle Economy / Sustainable Finance Lab)
Publication Date: 
01/2019
Country: 
Netherlands

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The transition to a Circular Economy requires innovative business models that stimulate optimised use of repairable products, reusable components and recycling of materials. A Community of Practice (CoP) has been established in which experts from different fields have collaborated to improve the financeability of circular construction. CoP members have engaged in a case of social housing corporation Eigen Haard. This report retraces the 'learning-by-doing' trajectory of this Community of Practice. It provides tools to unlock the potential of circular construction business models.

Five main lessons have been drawn from this exercise:

  1. Circular construction depends on the development of a market for used elements, products and materials.
  2. Unlocking the potential of circular construction requires new valuation methods, distinguishing between land and buildings.
  3. Circular construction can successfully be financed when risks and future potential are balanced. This can be supported by detailed financial modelling and leveraging key strengths of circular buildings as securities.
  4. Social housing corporations are ideally suited to implement circular economy business models since both favour long-term inclusive value above mere financial profits. 
  5. Collaboration and transparency support the creation of synergies between different fields of expertise (business, technical, legal, financial) to tackle the challenges of circular construction business models.

Polish Circular Hotspot

polish circular hotspot logo

The Polish Circular Hotspot is a public-private platform bringing together national and local government bodies with businesses, entrepreneurs, the scientific community and civil society to jointly develop and apply the concept of a circular economy in Poland.

The hotspot has begun the following activities to develop and implement circular innovations:

  • organising events (sectoral, regional, national) to analyse specific problems and legislative issues such as workshops on circular procurement for public agencies

  • assisting with drafting strategies and roadmaps while supporting the establishment of sectoral partnerships for practical circular solutions

  • networking businesses to exchange knowledge, showcase innovations and connecting Polish entrepreneurs with partners abroad, e.g. through study visits and B2B monitoring sessions with the support of the Dutch, Swedish, German, French and Danish Embassies.

  • educating those interested in the circular economy concept, for example by organising the national educational campaign ‘Polish Circular Week’

Becoming a member of the Polish Circular Hotspot enables you to work with Polish and foreign partners in building innovative solutions and exchanging best practice across sectors. The hotspot also provides its members with opportunities to shape the debate on emerging circular economy legislation and collaborate in funding projects through partnerships.

18 Dec 2018
Level(s) building sustainability performance logo

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City: 
Brussels
Country: 
Belgium

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On December 18, the European Commission will host a conference on Level(s), its new sustainable building reporting framework which aims to provide the insights that will shape future building sector policy.

Samen circulair ontwerpen: circulaire architectuur en bouw

Samen circulair ontwerpen: circulaire architectuur en bouw

bna report logo

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Author: 
One Future Play
Publication Date: 
09/2018
Country: 
Netherlands

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When 68 Dutch architectural firms signed a manifesto for circular construction in 2018, it became apparent that this field is committed and eager to apply circular economy principles in designing and building for sustainable development. Nonetheless there are few available resources on commencing such a process, which is why the BNA (Dutch Association of Architects) commissioned a study on 'Designing Circularity Jointly: Circular Architecture and Construction' in 2018.

The transition to a circular economy is a quest where nobody has the correct and precise information on what inputs are required to reduce carbon emissions, ensure raw materials are processed in a circular loop and the built environment is repurposed at end of life. Designing truly circular buildings requires frameworks and insights. These are summarised in the report's eight key messages:

  • circular economy is a shared quest full of complexity, obstacles and uncertainty, which is why openness, trust and courage are crucial;
  • architects need more circular assignments to be able to benchmark and share experiences with each other;
  • architects should play a greater role in designing buildings that can actually be built, maintained and recycled;
  • collaboration across the entire value chain is necessary to map out resource flows and design in a truly circular fashion;
  • regulation stimulates either renovation or newbuilds, becoming an obstacle when architects attempt to fuse old structures with new materials, linear raw materials with circular processes, and outdated standards with pioneering ones;
  • despite a lot of information being available, architects find it difficult to access sustainable materials that have passed the necessary quality checks;
  • the lack of clear guidelines about what is circular in the construction sector limits the adoption of corresponding principles;
  • there are no easily accessible and understandable tools to guide practitioners in designing a circular structure.
05 Feb 2019 to 07 Feb 2019
circular economy event

The three-day event Buildings As Material Banks – a pathway for a circular future (BAMB-CIRCPATH), to be held in Brussels on 5-7 February 2019, will focus on circular economy in the building/construction sector.

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