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Low-carbon technologies and Russian imports: how far can recycling reduce the EU's raw materials dependency?

Low-carbon technologies and Russian imports: how far can recycling reduce the EU's raw materials dependency?

Russia is among the larger suppliers of raw materials to the EU. It is the biggest world supplier for palladium, platinum and nickel, and a prominent one for aluminium and copper. The country still holds large untapped reserves of rare-earth elements.

This paper provides an overview of EU import dependency on raw materials and Russia’s share among EU sources of key supplies for low-carbon technologies. It then looks at prospects for meeting future material demands through circularity for three technologies, namely lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The analysis is based on two scenarios with different levels of ambition. They aim to give an indication of the scale of potential benefits that can be achieved through circular approaches.

The circular economy as EU environmental policy – Changing or maintaining the status quo?

The circular economy as EU environmental policy – Changing or maintaining the status quo?

The circular economy as EU environmental policy – Changing or maintaining the status quo?

Many actors see the EU’s circular economy (CE) as a promising narrative which steps outside dominant end-of-pipe solutions towards an encompassing vision for strategies across the supply chain. However, this study finds that the EU CE Action Plan maintains the status quo narrative instead of suggesting radical changes.

By focusing on stakeholder narratives, this analysis shows that the inertia is primarily due to CE proponents’ self-perception of being in a legitimacy crisis and their strategic arguments that have:

  • concealed social conflict and potential trade-offs
  • strengthened the agency of ‘status quo’ agents
  • excluded alternative voices questioning the proposed CE narrative.

The paper discusses how to develop new environmental narratives outside the status quo.

Barriers and enablers of wood cascading – Lessons for a circular bioeconomy

Barriers and enablers of wood cascading – Lessons for a circular bioeconomy

Barriers and enablers of wood cascading – Lessons for a circular bioeconomy

Longstanding research on wood cascading has identified a variety of factors to enable more efficient, circular use of forest-based products in Europe.

This paper finds that two of the most critical barriers to wood cascading are:

  • Competition between energy and material uses of waste wood in policy, market and infrastructure
  • Inadequate information on and low quality of waste wood, including pollutant content.

It makes the following recommendations for policies and business:

  • Redesign production processes to deal with contamination and increase quality
  • Coordinate energy and waste policies
  • Advance reporting standards about material composition of bioproducts
  • Explore the best forms of involvement, awareness raising, communication and policies.

Three narratives about food waste and their social impact

France's Law Against Food Waste: do new narratives serve social justice?

Three narratives about food waste and their social impact
Policy Brief
Author: 
Sina Leipold, Kaja Weldner, Marius Hohl
Publication Date: 
12/2021
Country: 
Germany

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France's Law Against Food Waste has become an international model for sustainable food policy. The law is often described as combining economic efficiency with environmental protection and social equity. However, stakeholder narratives cast doubt on whether this French CE law really contributes to social justice in the long run. This discourse analysis shows that:

  • the ban on food waste institutionalised a narrative about food waste that prioritises profit over social equity
  • the traditionally dominant solidarity narrative about food waste has been pushed back by the emerging CE discourse
  • As a consequence of this shift, activities enacted in the name of the CE may counteract social equity goals (for instance by establishing competition with charities).

Full research article

Healthy diets save more resources than food waste reduction

Healthy diets save more resources than food waste reduction

Healthy diets save more resources than food waste reduction

Policies are focusing on halving food waste to help conserve increasingly strained food resources. However, expanding their scope of action to include dietary changes and complement targets with resource footprints has greater potential to save resources while avoiding trade-offs.

This paper shows that in Germany:

  • Healthy, plant-based diets are more effective at reducing land and biomass use than halving food waste
  • A combination of more plant-based food consumption and food waste reduction in distribution and consumption is most effective at saving resources
  • Focusing exclusively on food waste reduction as a policy target can be detrimental to the overarching goal of saving resources because it deflects attention away from more effective alternatives.

Environmental assessments should focus on the needs of circular cities

Environmental assessments should focus on the needs of circular cities to support the transition to a sustainable circular economy

Environmental assessments should focus on the needs of circular cities

The circular economy (CE) is gaining momentum in cities. To ensure a sustainable CE, it is crucial to measure the environmental performance of CE strategies. However, environmental assessments overlook several strategies that are a key feature of urban CE practice. These include reuse and repair, sustainable built infrastructure and urban land use, green public procurement, smart information and access technology.

To provide insights into the environmental performance and potential of these strategies, industrial ecologists and municipalities should:

  • collaborate with urban systems experts
  • quantify the environmental impacts of entire urban systems
  • combine environmental assessments with social and economic feasibility ones.

Why the Packaging Act contributes little to the Circular Economy

Why the German Packaging Act contributes little to the Circular Economy

Why the German Packaging Act contributes little to the Circular Economy
Policy Brief
Author: 
Machteld Simoens, Sina Leipold
Publication Date: 
06/2020
Country: 
Germany

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Many political, business and civil society stakeholders are disappointed with the German Packaging Act. They feel it makes a comparatively small contribution to the circular economy. This study explains why they are disappointed:

  • Policy-making became entangled in disputes between proponents of a private and a public system for waste collection. Stakeholder fears of potential radical changes led to a stalemate
  • Fears allowed only incremental changes in the Packaging Act
  • The incremental changes could not resolve existing conflicts.

Based on its findings, the paper proposes possible courses of action. To create a shift to a circular economy, dialogue is needed using methods which explicitly address fears and overcome the current stalemate.

Building a Circular Future; Ten Takeaways for Global Changemakers

Building a circular future: Ten takeaways for global changemakers

Building a circular future; Ten takeaways for global changemakers

This book provides answers on how to govern the transition to a circular economy in different socio-cultural and political contexts.

It is intended to help the global changemakers who are building our circular future. Author Jacqueline Cramer spoke with 20 representatives of circular hotspots worldwide, thoroughly analysed their different contexts and extracted 10 key takeaways. Everyone working on circular initiatives can use these and adapt them to their own socio-cultural and political contexts.

How Network Governance Powers the Circular Economy Ten Guiding Principles for Building a Circular Economy, Based on Dutch Experiences

How network governance powers the circular economy: Ten guiding principles for building a circular economy, based on Dutch experiences

How network governance powers the circular economy

In this book, Jacqueline Cramer shows how network governance can power the circular economy. Network governance is about building a coalition of partners, which all fulfill a specific function in the network and are aligned by so-called transition brokers. By complementing conventional, public governance with this new form of governance, the best of both worlds is created.

Prof. Cramer shares her huge experience of implementing numerous circular initiatives in the Netherlands. As a practitioner and scholar, she has identified ten guiding principles for building circular initiatives, based on network governance. These guidelines can support everyone who wants to start or expedite a circular initiative.

The Circular Economy and Green Jobs in the EU and Beyond

The Circular Economy and Green Jobs in the EU and Beyond

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Author: 
Janis Brizga and Saïd El Khadraoui (Editors)
Publication Date: 
02/2022
Country: 
Belgium

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The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that is underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials. It is a resilient system - good for business, people and the environment. The book titled The Circular Economy and Green Jobs in the EU and Beyond examines what the circular economy means, why the transition from a linear economy to a circular one is important, and how we can achieve it.

The book offers clarification on the meaning and the implications of the circular economy across different contexts – economic, social, cultural, legal and international. Particular emphasis is placed on the implications for jobs and different business models as well as on questions of equity.

Consumer Attitudes towards Circular Business Models and Activities

Consumer Attitudes towards Circular Business Models and Activities

Consumer attitudes towards circular business models

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Author: 
CE Center | Circular Economy Policy Research Center
Publication Date: 
05/2019
Country: 
Belgium

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This study focuses on the willingness of consumers to use circular business models (CBMs).

It assesses the ‘suitability’ of a product or sector for a particular circular business model from a consumer-based perspective: is it likely that a sufficient number of consumers would be willing to adopt the CBM to make it worthwhile for providers to enter this market? The study aims to provide an overview of different attitudes towards a diverse set of CBMs. Specifically, it takes six scenarios concentrating on coffee, printing, housing, clothing, household chores and secondhand markets. This approach makes it possible to compare results for a variety of CBMs as well as to identify general trends in consumers’ intentions and reported behaviour.

Impact of Circular Economy on achieving the climate targets: case mobility

Impact of Circular Economy on achieving the climate targets: case mobility

Impact of Circular Economy on achieving the climate targets: case mobility

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Author: 
Maarten Christis (VITO), An Vercalsteren (VITO)
Publication Date: 
05/2019
Country: 
Belgium

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This study starts from the draft version of the Flemish Climate Policy plan. It assesses how specific measures and strategies reduce the impact on the climate. It also aims to illustrate the added value of the circular economy, which is intrinsically focused on reducing the material footprint.

The study looks at the climate impact from a consumption or footprint perspective, starting with Flemish consumption and including the value chain both inside and outside Flanders. Territorial GHG emissions are included separately to distinguish between the global and Flemish impact. The mobility sector has been selected as a case study. The study focuses on passenger transport by car.

CO2 mineralisation for sustainable construction materials

CO2 mineralisation for sustainable construction materials

CO2 mineralisation for sustainable construction materials
Author: 
Andrea Di Maria (KU Leuven), Ruben Snellings (VITO), Luc Alaerts (KU Leuven), Mieke Quaghebeur (VITO), Luc Alaerts (KU Leuven), Karel Van Acker (KU Leuven)
Publication Date: 
04/2019
Country: 
Belgium

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The production of Portland cement (PC) is responsible for 8-10 % of the global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. PC and PC-based blends are the most common binder in concrete production (< 99 % of cases). As PC is accountable for 74-81% of the CO2 footprint, substantial climate impact reductions for concrete requires eco-innovation at the cement level.

One of the most promising technologies to lower CO2 emissions consists in partially replacing traditional PC with industrial byproducts displaying cementitious properties, such as blast furnace slag from iron production, or coal combustion fly ashes from power generation, but their availability and properties are rather constrained.

A diversification of local (secondary) raw materials to extend partial substitution of PC is ongoing. 

Employment impact of the transition to a circular economy: literature study

Employment impact of the transition to a circular economy: literature study

Employment impact of the transition to a circular economy: literature study

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Author: 
Gwen Willeghems, Kris Bachus
Publication Date: 
09/2018
Country: 
Belgium

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This research paper is the first output of the research line that studies employment and actor analysis for the circular economy. The study aimed to gain insight into how the transition to a more circular economy could affect the labour market, with an emphasis on net job creation or loss, job creation at different skill levels, and geographical job concentration. The methodology used was a combination of literature review and exploratory data analysis, the latter focusing mainly on the Belgian region of Flanders.

Exploration of the plastic recycling landscape in Flanders

Exploration of the plastic recycling landscape in Flanders

Exploration of the plastic recycling landscape in Flanders

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Author: 
Marijke Jacobs (VITO), Ive Vanderreydt (VITO), Loïc Deweerdt (Summa), Luc Alaerts (Summa)
Publication Date: 
06/2018
Country: 
Belgium

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In order to identify and analyse possible bottlenecks and opportunities in the current post-consumer plastic recycling landscape in Flanders, available data sources were summarised and relevant sector organisations and companies interviewed. Specifically, interviews were organised with companies working on polyolefins in order to gain greater insight into the potential for circularity of the value chain for this type of polymer and its applications.

Circular Cities - Impacts on Decarbonization and beyond

Circular Cities - Impacts on Decarbonization and beyond

To evaluate the impact of adopting circular economy principles in cities – in terms of emissions, quality of life and resilience – Enel and ARUP, with the scientific support of the Enel Foundation, have collaborated on a research project focusing on four cities: Bogotá, Genoa, Glasgow and Milan, all committed to enhancing the energy transition.

The study concerns three key urban sectors:

  1. mobility
  2. built environment
  3. energy systems.

It entailed interviews with stakeholders and analyses of existing decarbonisation policies and circular strategies. A reference model was used to help identify the most significant circular actions that could lead to a reduction in GHG emissions in three sectors.

The results could be used as a guide for decision makers.

The circular economy as a de-risking strategy and driver of superior risk-adjusted returns

The circular economy as a de-risking strategy and driver of superior risk-adjusted returns

The circular economy as a de-risking strategy and driver of superior risk-adjusted returns
Author: 
Bocconi University, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Intesa Sanpaolo
Publication Date: 
08/2021
Country: 
United Kingdom

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Bocconi University’s analysis of 200+ European, publicly listed companies across 14 industries shows that the higher the circularity of a company, the lower its risk of defaulting on debt, and the higher the risk-adjusted returns on its stock.

The paper reveals how circular economy strategies can reduce investment risk by decoupling economic growth from resource consumption, diversifying business models, and allowing businesses to better anticipate stricter regulation and changing customer preferences. Embedding circular economy principles also reduces exposure to supply chain disruptions and volatility of resource prices.

The big food redesign

The big food redesign

While the current food system has sustained a growing population and brought economic development, much of it is essentially ‘linear’ and extractive, particularly in more developed markets. It is wasteful, polluting, and depletive, and is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and accounts for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The big food redesign study by Ellen MacArthur Foundation looks at the role fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) and food retailers can play to move us towards a food system with significant positive impacts for business, people, and the environment. It explores the ways in which food products can be designed in closer collaboration with farmers, for nature. It also investigates the crucial enabling role of policies and incentives.

The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss

The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss

The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss

Regenerating nature requires an economic transformation. To halt and reverse biodiversity loss, we need to fundamentally transform the way we produce, use, and consume our products and food. Conservation and restoration efforts alone – crucial though they are – will not be enough. The circular economy offers a framework for such a transformation. Applied together, its three principles are able to help tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss and enable the regeneration of nature. These biodiversity benefits can be demonstrated across different industry sectors, as shown in this new study by Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This paper also highlights the key steps businesses and policymakers can take to scale the circular economy potential and help shape a nature-positive future.

Circular economy, ecosystems an biodiversity - Towards a joint approach

Circular economy, ecosystems and biodiversity - Towards a joint approach

Circular economy, ecosystems an biodiversity - Towards a joint approach

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Author: 
Amélie Vaz, Head of studies and prospective, INEC
Publication Date: 
09/2021
Country: 
France

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Given the need to take biodiversity more into account in circular economy projects, this study aims to stress the links between the two and to clarify the role played by the circular economy in preserving ecosystems.

Several guiding circular economy principles contribute to reducing the impacts of our activities on ecosystems, such as non-toxicity, optimisation of resource management, promotion of renewable resources and looping of flows. The study also highlights the fact that each lever for implementing the circular economy can and should factor in biodiversity: land-use planning, normative framework, innovation, awareness raising and training, and economic support.

Study on circular economy principles for buildings’ design

Study on circular economy principles for buildings' design: Final Report

EC
Author: 
Deloitte, Building Research Establishment, In Extenso Innovation Croissance, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (European Commission)
Publication Date: 
07/2021
Country: 
EU

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This study aims to assist the European Commission to identify policy options that support the uptake of circular economy principles for buildings’ design in European, national and local policies.

The goal is:

  • to increase the service life of buildings
  • to facilitate the use of secondary materials and
  • to improve resource efficiency across the building life cycle.

The study also provides key insights and recommendations on actions for a roadmap supporting the uptake and implementation of circular economy principles for buildings’ design.

TOP 10 Circular Materials by mass - Market study

Top 10 Circular Materials by mass - Market study

Top 10 Circular Materials by mass

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Author: 
Eveline Lemke, Charlene Nessel
Publication Date: 
06/2021
Country: 
Germany

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Every year, about 100 billion tons of material are taken from the planet - but only 10 billion are circularized. The results of the TOP 10 study clearly highlight the differences between the systems: the waste culture and concepts are different in the Global North and the Global South, as are the objectives of the respective legislations.

In the Global North, the goal is to decouple waste generation from consumption. In the Global South, waste increases with per capita income; here, the old consumption patterns and images of the rich Global North are often emulated. 

Scorecards are used in the study to assess individual materials and their circular maturity in the region. The overall score is shown in the summary per material.

Promotion of the circular economy in the Hotel Industry in Cyprus and Greece – Preliminary assessment of the current status of circular economy

Promotion of Circular Economy in the hotel industry in Cyprus and Greece

Hotels4Climate
Author: 
Cyprus Federation of Employers & Industrialists (OEB), Institute of Greek Tourism Confederation (INSETE), Public Policy Consultancy adelphi
Publication Date: 
12/2020
Country: 
Cyprus

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Antri Constantinou Contact details

This report is published by the Cyprus Federation of Employers & Industrialists (OEB), the Institute of Greek Tourism Confederation (INSETE) and the public policy consultancy adelphi (Germany) as part of the European project Hotels4Climate financed by EUKI.

The report aims to assess the current state of circularity in the hotel industry in Cyprus and Greece by conducting national surveys in both countries targeting hotels in order to:

  • identify the priority sectors within the main services offered by hotels, the business challenges and opportunities to move to circular economy,
  • create successful, flexible and resilient circular business models, and
  • identify a number of internal and external barriers that raise obstacles to the transition to circular economy.

Les Partenariats, socle de l'économie circulaire

Partnerships are a cornerstone of successful circular economy initiatives, shows EpE report

Partenariats image
Author: 
Entreprises pour l'Environnement (EpE)
Publication Date: 
06/2021
Country: 
EU, France

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The circular economy is an alternative to the dominant economic model, which causes considerable damage to the environment as it is based on the linear use of resources.

The development of the circular economy has been hindered by a number of economic, technological and regulatory constraints.

EpE's natural resources commission has spent three years identifying what makes circular economy initiatives successful. An analysis of 27 circular economy initiatives carried out by companies shows that partnerships are one key to overcoming these constraints. A closer examination of these partnerships sheds light on various forms of governance.

Rewarding recycling: Learnings from the world’s highest-performing deposit return systems

Rewarding recycling

An increasing number of countries consider implementing a deposit return system for single-use beverage containers to address today’s challenges, i.e.:

  1. meeting new waste recovery targets,
  2. ending littering and
  3. moving towards a circular economy.

TOMRA shares lessons learnt from its 45+ years’ experience of innovating and managing deposit return systems globally in a new white paper including:

  • outcomes of effective deposit return systems
  • 4 key principles and 12 elements of high-performing deposit return systems
  • dozens of case studies on real-world implementation of deposit return policy.

The white paper seeks to contribute to an educated discussion on recycling best practice – including what can be learnt from the past and what the future may look like.

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