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Facts on circular economy in the EU & worldwide: what, where, who & how

11. How and where circular economy principles are already applied?

    The basic concepts of circular economy are already in use in many parts of the world. The report of the Club of Rome makes a detailed analysis of their use in various countries. Here are a few examples.

    China since 2006, has run nationwide mandatory energy saving and pollution reduction programmes to address what Chinese researchers refer to as ‘low resource efficiency’ and ‘high pollution levels’. According to UNEP, in 2009, China became the third country in the world to promulgate a law pertaining to the promotion of circular economy32. Through a national leadership in the last two 5-year plans, the so-called ‘circular economy’ strategies were implemented to address the challengs raised by the limits of “linear processes”, from primary resources to products and, further, to post-consumption wastes. A further strengthening of measures is expected for the upcoming 13th 5-year plan and the measures China introduced will be of crucial significance for every other developing country with similar policy intentions and, in many ways, a test case for a ‘global economy’ at world level.

    In Japan, the Sound Material Cycle Society (SMC) concept was central to the approach where Material Flow and these instruments are probably the most advanced examples of measures aimed at increasing in practice resource productivity and minimizing negative environmental impacts.

    In Germany, between 1994 and 2007 a seemingly impressive level of resource decoupling has occurred even if the figures did not allow to adequately measure the impact of this decoupling.

    In the Netherlands33, the stream of products from the metal and electrical sectors that are repaired and reused represented about 16% of the number of new products and about 81% of products from these sectors are offered for recycling suggesting that, in these two sectors at least, a certain degree of circularity has already gained acceptance.

    In the EU, circular economy principles have been gradually integrated in industrial best practices, green public procurement, use of cohesion policy funds, and in the construction and water sectors. In its 2017 report on the Circular Economy Action Plan34, the EU Commission listed the key measures taken among which steps that should be taken to inform and encourage investors and innovators to follow a circular economy model.

    The EU also put in place International Circular Economy Missions35 that are conceived with three clear objectives:

    • To increase cooperation between the EU and third countries;
    • To achieve a better understanding of the environmental challenges faced by third countries;
    • To promote green solutions through business partnerships abroad.

    In particular, the missions will focus on topics related to eco-innovation, chemicals and plastic, waste, water management, marine pollution and urban environmental best practices.

    Besides, the Word Business Council for Sustainable Development which introduced as early as in 1992 the concept of ecoefficiency, recently published a Practical guide to the circular economy36 entitled Unlocking More Value with Fewer Resources developed with inputs from expert interviews, specialized NGOs and literature research which included several concrete business cases and allowed to identify five key steps to make the transition towards a circular business. The report claims that in Europe alone, moving to a circular economy represents economic, social and environmental opportunities for companies that can be quantified in billions of euros.

    Eventually, the International Resource Panel's (IRP) regularly publishes scientific assessments covering economic decoupling initiatives in relation with Cities, environmental impacts, water, metals, land and soils, food, deforestation (REDD+ -Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), trade, and also proposes cross-cutting publications37.

    18 Opportunities for a circular economy in the Netherlands www.tno.nl 
    19  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/implementation_report.pdf
    20 Unlocking More Value with fewer resources – A practical guide to the circular economy
    http://www.wbcsd.org/Projects/Education/Leadership-program/Resources/Unlocking-More-Value-with-fewer-resources-A-practical-guide-to-the-circular-economy 
    The WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses and partners working together developing multiple resources for companies to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. 21 http://www.resourcepanel.org/reports 
    33 Opportunities for a circular economy in the Netherlands
    www.tno.nl 
    34  ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/implementation_report.pdf
    35 ec.europa.eu/environment/international_issues/missions_en.htm 
    36 Unlocking More Value with fewer resources – A practical guide to the circular economy -
    http://www.wbcsd.org/Projects/Education/Leadership-program/Resources/Unlocking-More-Value-with-fewer-resources-A-practical-guide-to-the-circular-economy 
    The WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses and partners working together developing multiple resources for companies to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. 37 www.resourcepanel.org/reports 


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