The 2019 Circular Economy debate in Europe – more mature than ever

Only a couple of years ago, the “circular economy” model was unknown to anybody, at least as a term. This week, over 600 experts within who different authorities, businesses, think-thanks and academics were queueing in front of the European Commission, resisting the wind, to listen, have a say or exchange ideas. 

Circular economy is not another hype. From all it seems that it is an aim that will stay with us for a while and that will be inherited to the next EU term.

The debates at the High-Level Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference have witnessed an evolution – from blaming and shaming to a talk that has higher chances than ever to be walked. There are a couple of greatest advancements – bigger willingness to work collaboratively, attentiveness to arguments, more listening and a clear recognition that there is not a single finely-tunned business model that will close the loop. “It is the business opportunities and new business models that will make up a successful story of the Circular Economy”, noted the chairwoman of European Parliament’s environmental committee, Adina Ioana Valean.

APPLiA’s Director-General, Paolo Falcioni focused on the fact that not only Europe, but all continents are lagging behind in the set up of a circular economy because what countries need to build first, together with the society, is a Circular Culture. A one-minute video, part of the Association’s Manifesto campaign, served him better than a hundred arguments and with it he gave an answer to questions about engaging Europeans in circularity, about non-tracked waste and the need of consumer awareness. In the same spirit during the opening session, Ellen MacArthur’s Director, Jocelyn Blériot said: “it is not that we have a blank page to choose between linear or Circular economy. We have ecodesign and EPR, but for that new system, we need to co-create some of these instruments. We need a civil society.”

The hook for a number of speakers was how to ensure that consumers make the right choice when the moment to take a decision comes. To repair, to reuse or to replace, undoubtedly, the consumer must have a choice. Speaking about repair, which expectedly, was one of the topics that was coming back in almost every session, Paolo Falcioni underlined that today, 81% of the home appliances are actually repaired. “I would like to praise the European Commission, and this does not happen often, for having decided to put safety first with the finalisation of the ecodesign requirements for resource efficiency. Repair can’t be everybody’s job”, he concluded.