Circular Economy (CE) could be transformative. Transforming an economy from linear consumption to circular materials flow including redesign, recovery, reuse, repurposing, is just that – transformative.
The sooner we move from “take, make, landfill” the better. The better for a sustainable economy, the better for GHG emission reduction and the better for employment and green jobs.
But what does CE involve?
The EU recently published a CE Action Plan report of 54 CE actions. They say that since its adoption in 2015, all 54 actions have been achieved or are being implemented. Impressive.
So what does the EU plan involve? Does it provide guidance for CE in Australia?
I think it does. I have clustered and summarised the EU actions below to give guidance on what the EU at least, thinks CE involves. (I have ignored process recommendations and technical EU terms). My apologies in advance for any loss of clarity in the interest of brevity. My aim is to propose a comprehensive action list for Australia based on the EU actions.
- Mandatory product design rules
- Product repairability rules e.g. TVs
- Mining waste management plan guidelines
- Sharing Platform for Cleaner Production and improved production
- Support SME’s to find substitutes for hazardous substances
- Enforce consumer protection rules to ensure product quality and eliminate greenwash
- Update guidance on unfair commercial practices including green claims
- Introduce product repairability rules
- Roll out Eco-label guidelines including for financial products
- Introduce rules and testing to prevent premature obsolescence
- Product Environmental Footprint declarations
- Green public procurement
- New waste legislation with Targets, Economic instruments and Mandated separated collections
- Certificates of Destruction for End of Life Vehicles
- Improved enforcement of waste transport rules
- Voluntary certification of waste treatment facilities
- Define the role of Waste to Energy in a Circular Economy
- Define best practice waste collection systems
Market for secondary materials
- Develop quality standards for secondary materials (especially plastic)
- Revised Fertiliser Regulation including organics
- Legislation for reused water in irrigation
- Promotion of water reuse
- Better tracking of chemicals of concern and policy coordination
- Electronic data exchange to track waste movement
- Raw materials information system
- Strategy for plastic in the Circular Economy
- Actions to reduce marine litter
- Measure food waste
- Stakeholder process to improve action of food waste
- Legislation to support donation and reuse of food waste as animal feed
- Revise Date marking on foodstuffs
Critical Raw Materials
- Report on critical raw materials at risk
- Improve data exchange for electronic waste
- Improve standards for material efficient electronics recycling
- Best practice recovery of critical raw materials from mining and landfill
- Pre-demolition assessment guidelines for industry
- Recycling protocol for C&D waste
- Core indicators for lifecycle assessment of buildings
- Best practice guidelines for biomass use
- Develop Renewable Energy Strategy
Innovation and Investment
- Pilot innovation deals to address regulatory barriers
- Develop investment platforms for CE
- Spend waste levy funds on CE initiatives
- Circular Economy Finance Support platform by the Reserve Bank of Australia
- Partnerships of stakeholders to deliver a CE Plan
These are the key themes and actions. As is obvious, it is an all-encompassing approach to redefining how resources are used (and abused) in the economy. It is important that CE not be restricted to the thinking of a few Think Tanks or Sustainability experts. It is about our economy. The sooner that Central Agencies (Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, Finance, Infrastructure etc) and their equivalents in the States, get involved, the sooner we can start the journey.