A summary of circular economy legislation around the world (part II)
In the second part of this article, let’s have a quick look at the European legislation on the circular economy. In addition to national legislations, the European Union took some measures related to the circular economy in the late 2000s. The circular economy is part of the Europe 2020 strategy for a smart growth, with a focus on the efficient use of resources. Very recently, in a legislative package adopted in December 2015, the European Commission promoted the transition to this inclusive and self-efficient economic model. The recommended measures concern mainly eco-design, the extension of product life-cycle, the fight against planned obsolescence, the development of the secondary raw materials market, as well as the extended producer responsibility. Producers must indeed inform consumers about the availability of spare parts and in some cases, assume the cost of recycling their products. However, the legislative basis around the circular economy already existed in several European countries. Here are a few examples:
The circular economy has indirectly been consecrated in Germany since 2002, with the inclusion into the country’s national sustainable development strategy of an objective to decorrelate economic growth from the use of resources. A program dedicated to the efficient use of resources and the resource productivity of products was also created (PROGRESS). The aim of this program is to transform environmental imperatives into economic opportunities for German companies, by giving priority to actions on the transformation and reuse of materials. To achieve that, the program is organized around four major strategies: securing the supply of sustainable raw materials, developing efficient use of resources in production processes, strengthening closed loop management of resources, and finally informing and educating consumers about sustainable consumption. These strategies are translated into concrete actions, and the German state encourages research and innovation, for example with financial support or by standing security for investors’ loans.
Alternatively, the circular economy is defined as “the prevention and recycling of waste” in the Law on the promotion of the circular economy and the environmentally sound management of waste, which is a transposition of the waste framework EU directive of 2008. This law focuses more on recycling household waste, raising awareness among consumers, as well as waste management by local authorities and sets targets for recycling and reuse of municipal waste by 2020.
2° The Netherlands
The Netherlands are the birthplace of the Cradle to Cradle concept, invented in the 1970s by Wlater R. Stahel. The C2C approach advocates the use of biodegradable raw materials or indefinitely reusable and recyclable materials in the production process, to preserve the environment in a logic of eco-design and eco-efficiency. The C2C production mode may be certified considering several criteria, namely the reuse and recycling of materials, the use of renewable energies and the impact on the environment. Many companies around the world have adopted this label. Moreover, the Dutch government included these criteria in public procurement policy. The Netherlands developed competence centers around C2C (Cradle to Cradle Islands) to support research and innovation in this field.
The circular economy is a real business model, which is the basis for a green and sustainable growth. This is illustrated by the example of industrial symbiosis, which is the search for synergies, mainly material substitution, between companies located close to each other. In such a system, waste produced by a company could constitute secondary raw material for another company located nearby. With some 60 parks, Netherlands is a huge cradle of industrial eco-parks in Europe.
Finally, waste management is one of the essential elements of circular economy policy in the Netherlands. Targets aiming to reduce waste-to-incineration are regularly set to encourage sorting and recycling. Also, incinerators are equipped with energy recuperation systems, thereby wastes can be considered as energy sources.
Last but not least, Sweden has the merit of being mentioned in this article because of a recent and highly innovative measure. Indeed, in September 2016, the Swedish Government announced tax breaks on repairs. The incentives are designed to increase reuse of products and encourage rational consumption. By reducing VAT from 25 to 12 per cent on bikes or clothes fixing and allowing people to claim back from income tax half of the labor cost on repairs to white goods, the Government hopes to counter a “throwaway consumer culture” and promote a sharing economy.
SANA (F.), “l’économie circulaire : changement complet de paradigme économique?”, Pour la solidarité European think and do tank, note d’analyse, novembre 2014
Maryam Mazaher is currently studying Law and management of energies and sustainable development at the University of Strasbourg.