On the 21st of April, the President of the European Council and the President of the EU Commission presented the need to invest massively in the circular economy as part of the EU post-COVID19 recovery strategy.  

The same priority to CE has been given by several member states, for example, Italy has placed this for the first time in the history of the country, the transition within the Economic planning document.

Therefore, there is a need now to transform this strategic decision into actions. Veltha has worked for seven years on the ecosystem-building for circular economy and virtually gathered to make a list of the most urgent actions needed to implement such a decision.

1. Tick, Tock – The clock is ticking for a comprehensive “end of waste” regulation. 

The concept of waste exists because we use it and we have spent the last 10 years trying to waste the concept. To invest in Circular Economy one shall first enable it. In the new Circular Economy action plan “Scoping the development of further EU-wide end-of-waste and by-product criteria” is foreseen in 2021. We should not forget that it takes years for the member states to adopt the EU’s normative. This means that in the meanwhile member states will take their initiative. We need communication from the EU to arrive in early 2021 at the latest because we must avoid possible contradictions among the two levels and between member states inside the single market.

2. Products don’t become circular in the landfills.

They should be circular from the beginning of their life. Materials, processes and products should be circular even before their life begins, at the design level, when the ideas appear the first time. We need to understand which ideas are feasible and sustainable and how to translate those ideas in reusable products, components and materials. We need to design sustainable materials that can be reused or recycled, components that can be easily refurbished, de- and remanufactured and reuse in the same or in other value chains. We need to design new process lines and types of machinery for such processes. We need to be more strict in terms of what we expect from the products of the future. We need a strong investment in research on Circular Design.

3. Realize single-use plastic will never disappear completely.

Although we should fight to diminish it as much as possible, packing food and clothes is the safest way of distribution in circumstances where the risk of spreading a virus (or any other contaminant) is high. Although we hope we will find a working vaccine for COVID19 soon, we also know that there will be future pandemics. Despite the single-use plastic regulation, plastic has not competitors at the time, both on the performance side and on the cost one. This rise the need for being able to be flexible with the amount of plastic we use in our supply chains and invest in research for innovative, sustainable, CE-based materials to substitute it.

Finally;

Start a big EU level awareness campaign on the general public from.. yesterday. 

Again for what regards enabling the transition before investing in it. Every circular value chain requires a behavioural component, first to assure that the waste we produce, in particular the single-use plastic we are obliged to use, could be collected and sorted in the appropriate way, to avoid marine and terrestrial littering. Secondary to close the CE value chains loop and keep spinning. Since we are asking for a change of paradigm to our production system this component should be executed with a positive attitude, we must prepare the market to the future generation of products. We should have started with this many years ago, and we think the exit from the lockdown situation represents the best opportunity to say people that we can do better than before.

These actions can start tomorrow, and other should follow in few months: CE needs instruments to link hundreds of theories to the European production system because at the time a systemic CE in practice doesn’t exist.