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Transitioning society to the 'reuse, repair and recycle' economy

· circular economy,circular business,European Commission,reuse,recycle

PART 1: MAINSTREAMING CIRCULARITY. We want to make sure that important progress on sustainability doesn’t get lost.

Just this month, the European Commission (Commission) unveiled its new Circular Economy Action Plan – designed to refocus the economy on ‘reuse, repair and recycling’ so that as a society we consume less resources. And when we emerge out of this current global health crisis (and we will!), stakeholders in the public and private sector will need to be ready to engage. Here, we discuss the plan in a two-part series.

What are the key goals of the framework?

  1. Rethinking product design. Design and production processes must consider product durability, reusability, upgradability and reparability.
  2. Increasing recycled content. This requires enhancing recycling quality, banning destruction of unsold goods, restricting manufacturing of single use products and restricting premature obsolescence.
  3. Rethinking the business model. To incentivise and reward the sustainability performance of products by introducing products-as-a-service business models and making the most of digital technologies and traceability.

The Commission has identified priority products and value chains that can have a big impact to target initially – this builds momentum through early wins, and also guides implementation of other categories down the track. Priority products are electronics, ICT, textiles and furniture – while priority inputs are steel, cement and chemicals. For services, we are pleased to see that sustainability criteria will include social considerations as well.

The plan is intended to transform production processes to enable greater circularity in close cooperation with small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and by promoting new technologies which help track, trace and map resources.

For consumers, the Commission intends considering incorporating ‘rights to repair’ into consumer law and requiring adequate information on topics such as a product’s lifespan, availability of spare parts, repair manuals and repair services. And in a bid to fight premature obsolescence, the Commission is proposing minimum requirements for sustainability labels and logos, and minimum mandatory Green Public Procurement criteria.

Given Europe tends to lead globally on sustainability, it is important for sustainability managers, procurement managers and product designers and manufacturer to be across leading developments in this region. Companies will be forced to think up front about how products they consume or sell will be dealt with at end-of-life.

And for sustainable, circular and social suppliers, this informs important consideration for sustainably designing, manufacturing and offering your product or service in order to position your business in the best way possible to customers.

In PART 2, we discuss the seven distinct key value chains that need sector specific measures. It is likely one or more is relevant to your business. Stay tuned.


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