Outlines for Round of Discussions on Circular Economy

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General points for discussion:
  • Is there enough know how present in the Southeastern Europe to facilitate the transition to the green, circular economy? What connections could be of use?
  • How can digitalisation further facilitate the transition?
  • Are there gaps between urban and rural parts of countries in the Southeastern Eruope and what kind of cooperation could eradicate them?

1. Circularity in production processes

While up to 80% of products’ environmental impacts are determined at the design phase, the linear pattern of “take-make-use- dispose” does not provide producers with sufficient incentives to make their products more circular. Many products break down too quickly, cannot be easily reused, repaired or recycled, and many are made for single use only. In order to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy, reducing waste and ensuring that the performance of front-runners in sustainability progressively must become the new norm. In terms of circularity in the production process it is therefore important to:
  1. improve product durability, reusability, upgradability and reparability, addressing the presence of hazardous chemicals in products, and increasing their energy and resource efficiency;
  2. increase recycled content in products, while ensuring their performance and safety;
  3. enable remanufacturing and high-quality recycling;
  4. reduce carbon and environmental footprints;
  5. restrict single-use and countering premature obsolescence;
  6. introduce a ban on the destruction of unsold durable goods;
  7. incentisive product-as-a-service or other models where producers keep the ownership of the product or the responsibility for its performance throughout its lifecycle;
  8. mobilise the potential of digitalisation of product information, including solutions such as digital passports, tagging and watermarks;
  9. reward products based on their different sustainability performance, including by linking high performance levels to incentives.
Potential points for discussion:
  • Which are the biggest challenges in the Southeastern Europe in regards to circular production process?
  • How can digitalisation contribute to facilitating circularity?
  • What are the main challenges in enabling remanufacturing and high-quality recycling?

2. Empowering consumers and public buyers

Empowering consumers and providing them with cost-saving opportunities is a key building block of the sustainable product policy framework. To enhance the participation of consumers in the circular economy, it is important to ensure that consumers receive trustworthy and relevant information on products at the point of sale, including on their lifespan and on the availability of repair services, spare parts and repair manuals. Potential points for discussion:
  • How aware is the average consumer in the Southeastern Europe of the importance of sustainability? How could the awareness be raised? What are the main challenges when trying to empower consumers in the Southeastern Europe?
  • How efficient is green public procurement in the Southeastern Europe? How could it be improved?
  • Are there any networks for green public procurement in the individual countries? If yes, how efficient they are? How could they be improved?

3. Recycling potential in materials used

The sustainability challenge posed by key value chains requires urgent, comprehensive and coordinated actions, which will form an integral part of the sustainable product policy framework.
  1. Batteries and vehicles: Sustainable batteries and vehicles underpin the mobility of the future. To progress swiftly on enhancing the sustainability of the emerging battery value chain for electro-mobility and boost the circular potential of all batteries
  2. PackagingThe amount of materials used for packaging is growing continuously and in 2017 packaging waste in Europe reached a record – 173 kg per inhabitant, the highest level ever. In order to ensure that all packaging on the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. Therefore, Southeastern Europe has to focus on reducing (over)packaging and packaging waste, applying design for re-use and recyclability of packaging, and consider reducing the complexity of packaging materials.
  3. Plastics: Plastics present a serious public concern, and has to be tackled comperhensively. The consumption of plastics is expected to even double in the upcoming 20 years, therefore, it is important to discuss the sustainability challenges posed by this ubiquitous material. In addition to reducing the plastic litter, it is also of the utmost importance to address the presence of microplastics in the environment.
  4. Construction and buildingsThe built environment has a significant impact on many sectors of the economy, on local jobs and quality of life. It requires vast amounts of resources and accounts for about 50% of all extracted material. The construction sector is responsible for over 35% of the EU’s total waste generation. Greenhouse gas emissions from material extraction, manufacturing of construction products, construction and renovation of buildings are estimated at 5-12% of total national GHG emissions. Greater material efficiency could save 80% of those emission
Potential points for discussion:
  • Which of the materials, causing pollution, poses the biggest challenge in the Southeastern Europe? How is the issue being addressed and how can the issue be addressed better?
  • How can Southeastern Europe enhance its recycling potentials?

4. Waste-management

High quality recycling relies on effective separate collection of waste. The decoupling of waste generation from economic growth will require considerable effort across the whole value chain and in every home. Potential points for discussion:
  • What are the main challenges in regards to the waste-management in the Southeastern Europe and how could they be addressed?
  • How is the Southeastern Europe affected by the waste exports from the EU?