To live in a truly sustainable society, an economic model is required that separates economic growth from resource depletion and environmental degradation, replacing the linear “produce, consume, discard” model with a circular one. ICLEI – local governments for sustainability, is a network of local and regional governments committed to sustainable development, which helps guide local governments in their transition to a Circular Economy. It works on a wide array of projects and initiatives to tackle issues of production, consumption and waste prevention from multiple perspectives, and topic areas – from plastics to bio-waste.
ICLEI is helping cities move from linear to circular solutions.
Two project which are currently addressing these issues are BIOVOICES, and CIRC-PACK.
The way industrialised societies currently produce and consume, i.e. the linear take-make-discard model, puts countries at risk of overstepping planetary boundaries, puts pressure on the regenerative capacity of the earth’s ecosystem and diminishes the natural resource base.
The bioeconomy is a key strategy claiming to work against these drivers to alleviate pressures on the natural environment, while creating new business opportunities, jobs and growth.
The EU has rolled out its 2018 Bioeconomy Strategy (European Commission, 2018) which aims to provide a strategic framework for shifting the economic resource base in Europe from a linear model, drawing on finite raw materials, to a circular model that is grounded on innovative renewable materials from land and sea biomass, as well as waste.
Nonetheless, the share of the bio economy in terms of EU GDP is still low (34 percent, according to 2018 European Commission reporting) and most people are working in low-tech bioeconomy sectors. The reasons for this are manifold and range from low acceptance for bio-based products among customers, to technical challenges with material property requirements, to political frameworks as well as labelling and standardisation, which lags behind the dynamic development in the bio-economy.
Through the BIOVOICES project, partners from seven EU countries are working together to engage stakeholders from academia, industry, policy and civil society. The project has identified a number of barriers for market uptake of bio-based products and is working through an innovative methodology to develop transdisciplinary and multi-perspective solution pathways, creating a network of mobilisation and mutual learning. Big levers for strengthening market uptake are for example, public procurement, feedstock management and supply chains, standardization and certification.
The CIRC-PACK project is leading a multi-pronged charge on plastic waste, turning it into a resource for high street consumers and specialised industry.
This project, which started in spring 2017, consists of three different demonstration cases. The first demonstration focused on producing new bio-based polyesters, biodegradable or compostable for some certain applications, with enhanced properties using renewable resources instead of fossil feedstock. These new plastics have been used for the manufacturing of trays, bottles, coffee capsules, jars, films and pallets.
The second demonstration aimed at improving the recyclability of multilayer and multi-material packaging, including, for instance, paper or different types of plastics, which is known for being difficult to recycle. This has been achieved through smart eco-designs – using the new materials developed during the first demonstration – that make it easier to collect, sort and recycle the waste, in turn reducing environmental impact.
The third demonstration focuses on enhancing existing sorting and recycling processes through new monitoring systems and technologies, increasing recovery rates and ensuring quality and reliability of the recovered materials to be reinserted in the same value chain – thereby closing the loop.
Go here for more on ICLEI’s circular economy work.