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Europe Relegates Single-Use Plastics to History

This sea turtle doesn't know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

This sea turtle doesn’t know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Targeting the 10 plastic products most often found littering European beaches as well as abandoned fishing gear, the European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional political agreement with the Commission on new measures to tackle marine litter at its source.

The agreement, reached Wednesday, is based on the Single-Use Plastics proposal presented in May by the Commission as part of the world’s first comprehensive Plastics Strategy, adopted in January.

Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Plastic residue is found in marine species such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, and also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain. And microplastics in air, water and food are having an unknown impact on human health.

The new EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics will be the most ambitious legal instrument at the global level addressing marine litter. It envisions different measures to apply to different product categories.

Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market from 2021. This will apply to such products as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

In the case of drinking straws, for instance, plastic straws could be replaced by straws made of all kinds of materials: paper, corn, hay, bamboo, metal, silicon or glass.

For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labeling requirements; and waste management and clean-up obligations for producers.

The new rules contribute to the goal of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015. Europe’s businesses and consumers will take the lead in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution.

The provisional agreement must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Following its approval, the new Single-Use Plastics Directive will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and the Member States will have to transpose it after two years.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast.”

“We have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies,” said Vella.

From the European Parliament, Lead MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) said Wednesday, “Citizens expected only one thing from the European Union, that it adopts an ambitious directive against disposable plastics responsible for asphyxiation of the seas and oceans. This is done with our agreement closed at 6:30 this morning. It will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030.”

The proposed Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior. These days, few rely on single use plastic bags but rely instead on reusable cloth shopping bags.

The new measures are expected to bring about both environmental and economic benefits. They are projected to avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030; and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.

“Europeans are conscious that plastic waste is an enormous problem and the EU as a whole has shown true courage in addressing it, making us the global leader in tackling plastic marine litter,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development. “Equally important is, that with the solutions agreed upon today, we are also driving a new circular business model and showing the way forward to putting our economy on a more sustainable path.”

The Single-Use Plastics Directive is supported by other measures taken against marine pollution, such as the Directive on Port Reception Facilities, on which the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement just last week.

This Directive will tackle waste from ships, with a focus on sea-based marine litter. It sets regulations to ensure that waste generated on ships or collected at sea is always returned to land, recycled and processed in ports.

Earlier this month the European Commission launched also the Circular Plastics Alliance, an alliance of industry stakeholders covering the full plastics value chain as part of their efforts to reduce plastics littering, increase the share of recycled plastics and stimulate market innovation.

The Circular Plastics Alliance aims to improve the economics and quality of plastics recycling in Europe, and will in particular strengthen the match between supply and demand for recycled plastics, which is identified as the main obstacle to a well-functioning EU market for recycled plastics.

With this new initiative, the Commission wants to contribute to the objective of achieving at least 10 million tons of recycled plastics offered as new products on the EU market by 2025, as set in the European Strategy for Plastics.

On January 16, the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics was adopted as a part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

Continuing in the spirit of the 2015 Circular Economy Package, the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive have been prepared by a core project team of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioners Vella and Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Many other commissioners were also involved in its preparation and helped identify the most effective tools covering a wide range of policy areas.

Vice-President Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Tackling the plastics problem is a must. At the same time it brings new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. We will discuss those thoroughly with industry within the Circular Plastics Alliance.

“With the agreement reached today,” said Katainen, “we are showing that Europe is doing a smart economic and environmental choice and is advancing towards a new truly circular plastics economy.”

Featured Image: Plastic rope entangled with seaweed on a North Sea beach in Denmark, January 19, 2014 (Photo by anriro96) Creative Commons license via Flickr.


EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Sustainable Finance European Style

At the European Financial Forum 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis first row center, Raquel Lucas, of Commissioner Dombrovskis' team, on the left, and on the right, Gerry Kiely, who heads the European Commission in Dublin. Feb. 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

At the European Financial Forum 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis first row center, Raquel Lucas, of Commissioner Dombrovskis’ team, on the left, and on the right, Gerry Kiely, who heads the European Commission in Dublin. Feb. 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 31, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – An EU-wide label for green investment funds, a European standard for green bonds, and a classification system to provide market clarity on what is sustainable are recommended in the final report of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, published this week.

The European Commission said it welcomes the report, which sets out strategic recommendations for a financial system that supports sustainable investments.

In 2015, landmark international agreements were established with the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The report attempts to put the EU on the path to fulfilling its obligations under these agreements.

The Commission established the independent High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) in December 2016. It is made up of 20 senior experts from civil society, the finance sector, academia and observers from European and international institutions.

HLEG is chaired by Christian Thimann, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and head of strategy, sustainability and public affairs of the AXA Group, based in Paris. He is an external member of the Council of Economic Advisers to the French Prime Minister.

The report by the High-Level Expert Group maps the challenges and opportunities that the EU faces in developing a sustainable finance policy that supports the transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy.

In its report HLEG advises that reorienting investment flows into long-term, sustainable projects will improve the stability of the financial system.

The HLEG final report proposes:

  • a classification system to provide market clarity on what is sustainable
  • an EU-wide label for green investment funds
  • a European standard for green bonds
  • clarifying the duties of investors in achieving a more sustainable financial system
  • improving disclosure by financial institutions and companies on how sustainability is factored into their decision-making
  • making sustainability part of the mandates of the European Supervisory Authorities

The European Commission says it will now move to finalize its strategy on sustainable finance on the basis of these recommendations.

Delivering an EU strategy on sustainable finance is a priority action of the Commission’s Capital Markets Union (CMU) Action Plan, as well as one of the key steps towards implementing the Paris Agreement on climate and the EU’s Agenda for sustainable development.

To achieve the EU’s 2030 targets agreed in Paris, including a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, we need around €180 billion of additional investments a year, says the Commission.

The financial sector has a key role to play in reaching these goals, as large amounts of private capital could be mobilized towards such sustainable investments.

The Commission is determined to lead the global work in this area and help sustainability-conscious investors to choose suitable projects and companies.

Valdis Dombrovskis, EU vice-president responsible for financial stability, financial services and capital markets said, “The signature of the Paris agreement in 2015 marked a milestone for the world and for the global economy. We are now moving towards a low-carbon society, where renewable energy and smart technologies improve our quality of life, spurring job creation and growth, without damaging our planet.”

“Finance has a big role to play in funding a sustainable future,” declared Dombrovskis. “I welcome the outstanding work of the HLEG which is excellent input for our upcoming strategy.”

“I believe this report is a manifesto for far-reaching reform,” Dombrovskis told the European Financial Forum 2018 at Ireland’s Dublin Castle today.

He said the Commission will use the HLEG report to propose an EU strategy on sustainable finance in March, followed by several legislative proposals.

“The future of finance will not only be digital, it will also have to be green,” said Dombrovskis.

Commenting on the HLEG recommendations, he said, “First, we need a unified EU classification system or taxonomy for sustainable assets. We need to define what is green and what is not green. And we need to identify the areas where sustainable investment is most needed and can make the biggest impact. A unified EU classification is fundamental for the development of any green finance policy. We will follow up this recommendation with the first piece of legislation in spring.”

As recommended in the report, Dombrovskis said, “We will present a proposal on fiduciary duty. It will clarify the need to take sustainability into account when managing money for others. Clients have the right to know how sustainable their investments are.”

Third, he said, “We could boost green investments and loans by introducing a so-called green supporting factor. This could be done at first stage by lowering capital requirements for certain climate-friendly investments, such as energy-efficient mortgages or low-carbon cars.

However, said the vice-president, “This exercise would be delicate. Green does not mean risk-free. Any measures would have to be carefully calibrated, and based on a clear EU classification.”

Finally, said Dombrovskis, “Further development of the green bond market can drive the investment that we need. With a unified classification system for sustainable assets, we could establish criteria and labels for green bonds and investment funds. These labels would help investors to easily identify financial products that comply with green or low-carbon criteria. We could extend the existing European Eco-label to financial products.”

The EU has set itself ambitious climate, environmental and sustainability targets, through its 2030 Energy and Climate framework, the Energy Union and its Circular Economy Action Plan.

These commitments, and the growing awareness of the urgency to address environmental challenges and sustainability risks, call for an effective EU strategy on sustainable finance.

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “The EU is already at the forefront of investing in resource efficiency and social infrastructure, not least through the European Fund for Strategic Investments and its reinforced focus on climate action.”

“At the same time,” said Katainen, “creating an enabling framework for private investors is crucial to achieving the transition to a cleaner, more resource-efficient, circular economy.”

“The High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance’s final report provides us with a roadmap to do just that, and we welcome their invaluable contribution to this very important issue,” he said.

The group’s report will form the basis of the Commission’s comprehensive Action Plan on sustainable finance that it will put forward in the coming weeks. Both the findings of the report and the Commission’s Action Plan will be discussed at a high-level conference on March 22 in Brussels.

Similar ideas are taking hold at banks across the European Union.

Green Tagging is emerging as the new strategy for Europe’s banks to scale up financing of energy-efficient housing and real estate, finds a report released in Paris in December alongside the One Planet Summit hosted by France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Green Tagging is a systematic process where banks identify the environmental attributes of their loans and underlying asset collateral as a tool for scaling up sustainable finance.

The report, from the consulting firm Climate Strategy & Partners  and the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, finds that green tagging around real estate and energy efficiency is growing at a critical time.

Nick Robins, co-author and co-director of the UN Environment Inquiry, said, “Green Tagging is in an early stage of development, but the pace of change is now striking. Key banks are now recognizing that they need to understand the environmental performance of their real estate lending book in order to better serve their clients and deliver their sustainability goals.”

This report describes how 10 European banks “are beginning to identify, analyze and promote green finance for housing and real estate through the direct attribution of environmental characteristics in their lending and debt capital markets operations,” said Peter Sweatman, co-author of the report and chief executive of Climate Strategy & Partners.

The 10 pioneer banks are: ABN AMRO Bank in the Netherlands; Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in Spain; Berlin Hyp in Germany; HSBC a British multinational bank with roots in Hong Kong; ING Real Estate Finance, a global financial institution of Dutch origin; Lloyds Bank, a British retail and commercial bank; Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB, a Swedish financial group; Italian bankds Suedtiroler Volksbank and UniCredit; and Triodos Bank, a Netherlands-based commercial bank.

The Green Tagging of bank assets allows for easier access to green bond markets, better tracking of green loan performance and provides greater transparency of climate risks and portfolio resilience.

“Tagging our commercial real estate and mortgage loans to existing energy and environmental standards enabled our internal transparency and supported our issuance of the first green covered bond,” said Bodo Winkler from Berlin Hyp, currently the largest European commercial bank issuer of green bonds. “The green tagging data provided us valuable insights into the relative credit and economic performance for our loans to green buildings compared to standard ones.”

Joop Hessels from ABN AMRO said, “Identifying and tagging green buildings in the bank systems in a European context was essential for the world’s first green bond to define green real estate, issued by ABN AMRO, and in advising other new green real estate backed bond issuers.”

Featured image:  Euro banknotes and coins, February 19, 2016 (Photo by verkeorg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Training


EU Circular Strategy Incorporates Plastics

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, January 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – All plastic packaging on the market across the EU will be recyclable by 2030 under the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics adopted by the European Commission earlier this month, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.

As part of this transition towards a more circular economy, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies.”

“The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more,” Timmermans said. “This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together.”

“With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”

There are over 1,000 different types of plastics, mainly derived from petroleum. Industry figures show the demand for European plastics amounted to 46.3 million tonnes in 2013. The main uses were packaging (39.6 percent), building and construction (20.3 percent), automotive (8.5 percent) and electronics (5.6 percent).

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million  tonnes of CO2 a year.

Recent trends show a decrease in landfilling and an increase in energy recovery and recycling.

Even so, Europeans generate 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Marine plastic litter is especially harmful. Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Studies have shown that plastics are reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on human health.

Building on the Commission’s past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics will tackle the issue head on. Timmermans says the strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.

The European Commission finds that there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. By taking the lead in this transition, the Commission says the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high quality jobs.”

The goal is to protect the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastic economy, where the design and production of plastics fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials,” said Katainen. “Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

PlasticsEurope is the overarching European plastics trade association. With centers in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris, its more than 100 member companies produce more than 90 percent of all polymers across the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

PlasticsEurope said its members welcome the publication of “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.”

“We, the European plastics manufacturers, are committed to ensure high rates of reuse and recycling with the ambition to reach 60 percent for plastic packaging by 2030. This will help achieve our goal of 100 percent reuse, recycling and recovery of all plastics packaging at European level by 2040”, said Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of PlasticsEurope.

To support its ambitious recycling goals, the Strategy for Plastics stresses the need to discourage the landfilling of plastics waste and recognizes that effective waste management systems are key to avoid littering and ensure that collected waste finds its way to proper treatment.

“This is a step in the right direction as no plastic should end up in the environment,” said Foerster. “Since 2011, the European plastics industry has been calling for Zero Plastics to Landfill. Only a legally binding landfill restriction on all recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste will put an end to the landfilling of all waste which can be used as a resource.”

“These measures, should be proportional, effective and harmonized at EU level,” said Foerster.

In this context, PlasticsEurope has made a voluntary commitment representing the plastics industry contribution to achieve a fully circular and resource efficient Europe. “Plastics 2030” sets a series of ambitious targets and initiatives up to 2030, in “a spirit of commitment to future generations.”

At the January 16 news conference announcing the new strategy, Vice-President Katainen said, “The Plastics Strategy is part of our Circular Economy Strategy. In the Circular Economy both words count. Without economic logic there is no Circular Economy. Without circulation our economy is not sustainable. That is why our aim with the Plastics Strategy is to create a Single Market – a true Single Market – for plastic waste.”

Click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new plastics strategy.

Featured image: Members of Greenpeace groups protest in 62 cities in Germany against the pollution of the oceans. This bag of waste was collected on the banks of the Elbe River in Hamburg. March 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Hamburg) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Training

EU Maps Rich Resources for Urban Waste Mining

This massive salt pile is visible from the A4 Autobahn near Heringen, Germany is left over from potash mining in the region. (Photo by Gord McKenna) Creative Commons license via Flickr

This massive salt pile is visible from the A4 Autobahn near Heringen, Germany is left over from potash mining in the region. (Photo by Gord McKenna) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 19, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Gold, platinum, aluminum and copper are just a few of the valuable materials lying hidden in vast piles of waste batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), scrap vehicles and mining wastes across the European Union.

Today, for the first time, expert organizations have unveiled the world’s first European database of valuable materials available for “urban mining” from these waste heaps.

The new Urban Mine Platform , created by 17 partners in project ProSUM, which stands for Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes, presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials for products in use and throughout their journey to end of life.

The database reveals the roughly 18 million tonnes of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU’s scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, gadgets, appliances and other high tech products discarded every year.

The 28 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland, generated around 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2016 – about 23 percent of the world total.

In addition, two million tonnes of batteries and some seven to eight million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life annually. All are a rich source of secondary critical raw materials (CRMs).

Pascal Leroy is secretary general of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator.

“Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world’s first one stop shop knowledge data platform on critical raw materials in waste products – easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable,” said Leroy.

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor reports that the world’s 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone, not including vehicles, in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Charts offer detailed data and market intelligence on:

  • The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock, and generated as waste
  • The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminum, copper, gold or neodymium, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles
  • Waste flows, including amounts collected, estimates for small batteries and EEE in unsorted municipal solid waste, exported used vehicles, as well as the amount of vehicles, batteries and EEE of unknown whereabouts.

The ProSUM consortium says “urban mining” to recover valuable CRMs from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and limit dependence on non-EU suppliers.

To that end, the project partners created from over 800 source documents and databases what they call “a state of the art knowledge base, using best available data in a harmonized and updateable format, which allows the recycling industry and policymakers to make more informed investment and policy decisions to increase the supply and recycling of secondary raw materials.”

The ProSUM report notes that a smartphone contains around 40 different critical raw materials, with a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores.

The consortium explains that mining discarded high tech products produces 80 percent less carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gold than primary mining operations do.

ProSUM has shown that an increasing number of products contain precious resources such as neodymium, vital for making permanent magnets in motors; indium, used in flat panel displays; and cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries.

The Urban Mine Platform makes it possible to see the stocks and flows of these products.

Jaco Huisman of the United Nations University, and ProSUM Scientific Coordinator, says, “Until now, data on such critical raw materials have been produced by a variety of institutions, including government agencies, universities, NGOs, and industry, with the information scattered across various databases in different formats and difficult to compare or aggregate and often representing an outdated snapshot for a certain year only.”

“The ProSUM effort helps remedy that problem, and enables the identification of so-called hotspots – the largest stocks of specific materials,” said Huisman.

Europe can potentially mine two million tonnes of batteries a year.

The ProSUM report points to a sharp jump in battery waste the European Union, Switzerland, Norway since year 2000, with 2.7 million tonnes expected to be put on the market in 2020, up from roughly 1.7 million tonnes in 2000.

European authorities know the fate of only half of the estimated two million tonnes of batteries discarded in 2015, about 90 percent of them lead-based.

Other types of batteries available for urban mining – nickel-metal hydride, zinc-based and lithium-based – are a significant source of lithium (7,800 tonnes), cobalt (21,000 tonnes) and manganese (114,000 tonnes).

Vehicles are an increasingly rich source of critical raw materials.

Europe’s end of life vehicles represent a large source of secondary base metals like steel (213 million tonnes), aluminium (24 million tonnes) and copper (7.3 million tonnes), as well as platinum and palladium used in car catalysts.

Vehicles also contain large amounts of critical raw materials due to electronics, as well as alloying elements used in steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Few electric vehicles have yet reached end of life. Still, with sales rising, these will be a source of growing importance for secondary raw materials like neodymium, lithium and cobalt.

The report notes that more than 40 percent of registered vehicles are “of unknown whereabouts” – a gap attributable in part to unreliable data on used vehicles traded within the EU, unreported recycling, and exports beyond Europe.

Mining waste is rich in low grade metals.

The project is also amassing information about resources available in mining waste, which deposits are commonly very large but of low metal grade. New data, such as location, type of waste and origin available in a special extension of the database at Minerals4EU .

Mining waste differs in many respects from the other product groups in ProSUM in that there is no EU legislation that requires recycling, there is no major recycling industry, and Eurostat statistics on mining waste are sparse and only at country level.

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU.

With this information, manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies. Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.

The mining industry can use this information for greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.

Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.

Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

Katerina Adam, associate professor, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens said, “The ProSUM project has advanced the knowledge base for extractive wastes by assessing the availability of data on CRMs in mining waste deposits and expanding the scope of the Minerals Knowledge Data Platform to include more mining, processing, and waste reprocessing activities in future.”


Featured: Wrecked cars in a scrapyard near Wokingham, England, UK contain valuable raw materials. (Photo by sleepymyf) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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EU Pours Millions Into Circular, Low-carbon Economy

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A building integrated solar array at the Gare de Perpignan, Southern France. Part of the railway station was decorated in the style of Salvador Dalí, who proclaimed it to be the “Center of the Universe” after experiencing a vision of cosmogonic ecstasy there in 1963. (Photo by Issolsa via Wikipedia) Creative Commons license.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Integrating solar panels into the glass facades of buildings could improve their energy performance to meet EU targets, as the buildings become a whole new source of renewable energy. A demonstration project will generate clean energy through building integrated photovoltaic facades fitted on refurbished and new buildings in Belgium and Spain, the final stage before market launch of the technology.

This is just one of 139 projects (Europa Press Release) soon to be funded by the European Commission as part of an investment package of €222 million to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.

LIFE experts expect the solar panels to reduce the buildings’ carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 34 percent. The project will be coordinated by AGC Glass Europe, based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Besides being a nice chunk of change all by itself, the EU funding will mobilize additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going to fund 139 new projects in 20 EU Member States.

“In its 25th year, the LIFE program continues to invest in innovative projects with high added value for people, businesses and nature. I am delighted to see that the program transforms close-to-market technologies into new, green businesses,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The newly approved funds will go towards financing a circular and low-carbon future. For instance, €181.9 million will go to projects in the fields of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information.

In line with the European Commission’s circular economy package, projects will help Member States in their transition to a more circular economy.

Circular economy projects newly funded by LIFE include: testing an Italian prototype that could cost-effectively convert petrol cars into hybrid vehicles; creating bio-based products from wastewater sludge in the Netherlands; and applying a new biological treatment to remove pesticides and nitrates from water in southern Spain.

A LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency project funded at €2.3 million will explore new road surfaces to reduce noise and urban heat.

Some 37 million Europeans are exposed to transport noise at levels dangerous for their health, according to LIFE. Most of them live in cities, where the health impacts of heatwaves also are more pronounced. Changes to road surfaces could easeboth problems.

With the new funding, the City of Paris is leading a LIFE project to devise durable asphalt surfaces with phonic and thermal properties that will reduce noise pollution and mitigate the urban heat island effect.

The measurable impact at three pilot sites is expected to be a two decibel reduction in noise experienced by neighboring residents and a 0.5°C to 1.5°C reduction in the urban heat island effect.  due to lighter road surfaces and increased water retention

Other funded projects will support the implementation of the Action Plan for Nature, in particular the management of Nature 2000 sites.

Species protection is another focus, such as in the Slovenian cross-border project to help the survival of a highly endangered Alpine lynx species.

The Danube river in western Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most important areas for the conservation of priority bird species, such as the white stork. But birds in Natura 2000 network sites here struggle with nearby urban and industrial centers, transport corridors, and hundreds of kilometres of encircling bird-unsafe overhead power lines.

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A newly funded project will identify the power lines posing the most serious hazard for western Bulgaria’s wild birds in a GIS database, mapping areas of potential conflict and producing a detailed report.

The project will stop unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by electrocution on electricity pylons by retrofitting 4,000 pin-type pylons, 1,200 metal frame pylons and 200 switch towers. Project workers will install 120 km of aerial conductors marked with “bird diverters” to reduce bird-collisions by 90 percent in priority areas.

In the area of climate action, the EU will invest €40.2 million to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance and information projects.

Selected projects support the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Hungary, for instance, is forecast to suffer a greater than average impact from climate change, including water scarcity and extreme, unpredictable floods. A €2.5 million LIFE project will build capacity among Hungary’s 3,000+ municipalities through demonstration actions, smart online tools, training and support networks.

The project will focus on promoting ecosystem-based natural water retention measures to manage and mitigate flooding caused by climate change in Hungary.

By applying the Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) model, one project in France will give financial regulators and policy-makers the ability to assess EU insurance companies and pension fund assets against global climate goals. This will help them better assess the risks of investments under a range of different decarbonisation scenarios.

At least 200 EU financial institutions are expected to adopt the PACTA model within three years of the project’s completion. The project is expected to contribute to the broader goal of standardizing climate-related accounting.

LIFE funding will also help improve the resilience of one of Europe’s busiest waterways, the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium, anddevelop tools to forecast desert dust storms.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said, “The historic Paris Agreement on climate change has added wind to the sails of already accelerating climate-smart investments. With these projects, we use limited public finance in a catalytic way: we unlock private finance to protect the environment, fight climate change and provide cleaner energy to our citizens. These kinds of investments are of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

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Going Circular By Design

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Graphic image by Wee Viraporn, Thailand.

HELSINKI, Finland, June 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News ) – “Circular material use and smart products design hold a promise of substantially reducing the environmental burden of production and consumption, but it requires fundamental shifts in our resource use patterns,” finds a new report launched at the World Circular Economy Forum 2017 (WCEF2017) last week in Helsinki.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) report published June 6 stresses that circular business models cannot rely on smarter product design alone, but also will require the development of related support services and recycling infrastructure.

In their report, authors Mieke De Schoenmakere of the EEA and Jeroen Gillabel of the research and technology organization VITO, acknowledge that there will be pain as Europe moves from a linear to a circular economy.

“Reconfiguring societal systems requires innovation across a wide range of sectors – from farming to finance,” they write.

“It includes not only development of new technologies, but also of novel social practices and business models, and changing of consumer behavior, beliefs and basic values. This will inevitably create tension and produce a mix of societal costs and benefits, falling unevenly on different groups,” the report states.

The authors conclude, “The creative destruction inherent in entrepreneurial innovation will affect jobs and economic interests, creating conflict and power struggles.”

Currently, product design is based on the linear “make-use-dispose” model of production, which depends on cheap, abundant raw materials and energy. The result is growing environmental problems, such as increased waste, rising carbon emissions and loss of biodiversity.

The circular economy holds the promise of more efficient and sustainable material use. Keys to unlocking this shift are resource efficiency and waste reduction by improving the ability to reuse, repair, or recycle products, which are expected to encourage product design innovations.

The authors suggest that the value of materials and products should be kept as high as possible for as long as possible. This reduces the need for new materials and energy and can lead to lower carbon emissions. It also lowers the environmental pressures linked to the life-cycle of products – from the extraction of raw materials, through the energy used to produce the goods, and their use, to their disposal in waste dumps or incinerators.

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Participants in the World Circular Economy Forum 2017 networking at the Marketplace sit on repurposed shipping pallets. June 6, 2017 Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by Sari Gustafsson/Sitra) Posted for media use.

Launched at the first-ever World Circular Economy Forum 2017 (WCEF2017) earlier this month in Helsinki, the EEA report ‘Circular by design – products in the circular economy,’ looks at what drives product design and how emerging production and consumption trends can enhance or hinder more circular and efficient use of materials.

All of these issues were explored at the forum, where close to 1,500 participants from more than 100 countries attended plenary and parallel sessions showcasing circular economy solutions for business, cities and finance.

WCEF 2017 was organized by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the Finnish Ministries of Environment, Foreign Affairs, and Economic Affairs and Employment, with seven co-organizers, including the European Commission and the UN Environment Programme.

In an image-based web page summarizing “10 key takeaways” from the forum, Timo Mäkelä, Sitra’s senior advisor on the carbon-neutral circular economy states, “Global use of natural resources threatens to exceed the carrying capacity of our planet. The circular economy offers an avenue to new kind of growth and jobs while saving our environment and its natural resources.”

Reporting on the forum for Sitra, journalist David J. Cord recounted the efforts of the Finnish-Swedish firm Stora Enso to expand what a tree can do.

Stora Enso is a provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions and paper on global markets.

Stora Enso CEO Karl-Henrik Sundström explained that wood can be both recycled and renewed. Stora Enso breaks down wood fibres into separate tiny components which can be rebuilt into new materials. They can be used to create cars, planes or even bottles.

Sundström said, “We can make materials intelligent, like packages that tell us where they’ve been, where they are, what’s inside and if its fresh. We’re even working on solar panels and paper which can store energy – all made from wood.”

Neste Corporation, an oil refining and marketing company located in Espoo, Finland, aims to be the world’s leading biofuel producer in the circular economy.

At the forum, Neste President and CEO Matti Lievonen explained that the company is focusing its raw materials research on waste plastics as a substitute for crude oil in the manufacture of oil products.

“In practice, our business, based on renewable products and circular economics, is eating away at our traditional business operations. This is a sacrifice that many did not believe in at first,” said Lievonen. “But when it comes to the question of what kind of planet we will leave to future generations, the transition to sustainable lifestyles cannot be held back.”

The company already produces enough Neste MY Renewable Diesel, produced of waste and residues, to power more than two million cars for a year. This will enable Neste’s customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by almost seven million tons this year.

Among the most important new raw materials of the future that Neste is interested are residues from the forestry industry, algae, and waste plastics.

All of the sessions at the World Circular Economy Forum 2017 were live streamed, and the video recordings are available on the WCEF2017 website along with a short video summarizing the meeting.

The EEA report finds that although the linear economy may be deeply entrenched right now, emerging production and consumption trends indicate that the role of products in society is changing, with potential benefits for circular material use.

New technologies, such as 3D printing, can reduce the number of materials used in a product and can be used to print spare parts, stimulating the repair of products. Yet, such developments can be a barrier to recycling if the technology leads to complex mixtures of different materials being integrated into one product.

The report does not attempt to evaluate established policy, as set forth in the European Commission’s 2015 Circular Economy Package. Instead, it aims to inform and stimulate future initiatives.


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Achieving Circularity

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Armacell foam component of the KAFD World Trade Center in the King Abdullah Financial District, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is lifted into place. The façade cladding is built out of advanced composite materials and covers a surface area of more than 40.000 m². (Photos courtesy Armacell)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, May 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Companies looking for innovative ways to give the circular economy a spin can check out insulation foams producer Armacell, which is giving PET plastic bottles a second life in wind turbine rotor blades.

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. It is made into containers for liquids and foods and used in combination with glass fiber for engineering resins.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, Armacell has started up an extrusion line at its Brampton facility in Ontario, Canada to convert recycled PET resin into PET foam for use in the production of wind turbine rotor blades.

Around 75 percent of Armacell’s PET foam makes up the core for the blades, with some 50,000 PET bottles converted to form the core of a single wind turbine.

The first of its kind in Canada, the new extrusion line joins similar Armacell PET foam extrusion lines in Belgium and the United States. Armacell plans to install a PET foam line in China and launch production by the end of 2018.

The company claims its foaming process reduces carbon dioxide emissions when compared with standard PET foaming using virgin resin. The process generates “52 percent less CO2 than PVC foam and 62 percent less than polyurethane foam,” the company states.

The company estimates that its ArmaForm PET is already used in more than 30,000 wind turbine blades globally. Among their many uses, Armacell foams made from PET bottles can also be used for insulation in buildings and ships.

The circular economy is becoming a driving force, particularly in the plastics sector, now that the business community is getting involved.

The New Plastics Economy Initiative was launched in London in May 2016. In January 2017, the Initiative launched the report “The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action” at the World Economic Annual Meeting in Davos.

The report sets forth an action plan to increase recycling or reuse of all plastics packaging globally to 70 percent, up from today’s recycling rate of 14 percent.

Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , headquartered on the Isle of Wight in the UK, the initiative is bringing together companies, governments, NGOs, scientists, students and citizens to build a global plastics system that works.

The foundation defines a circular economy as one that is “restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.”

“A circular economy is a continuous positive development cycle that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimizes resource yields, and minimizes system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows,” the foundation says.

Focusing on designing better plastics packaging and creating circular material streams, Excelrise, KKPKP, Nestlé, Re-Poly, and Schwarz Zentrale Dienste, are joining the active group of stakeholders to increase cross value chain collaboration.

The Initiative’s Core Partners include: Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, Unilever and Veolia.

Unilever in January committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever called on the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry to accelerate progress towards the circular economy.

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, said, “Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe and enjoyable for our consumers. Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post consumer-use.”

Swiss group Nestlé and its French rival Danone are partnering to create a greener plastic bottle. The food and drinks companies are funding Origin Materials, a Californian biotech company to develop plastic made from waste such as sawdust or old cardboard instead of petroleum.

The Coca-Cola Company may have tried to identify itself with the circular economy, but Greenpeace says the company is not doing enough to protect the Earth from its plastics.

On April 10, Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Coca-Cola’s UK headquarters in London with a giant sculpture featuring a seagull regurgitating plastic, and demanded that the company do more to help prevent plastic pollution.

The campaign group said the sculpture, which depicts an idyllic family beach scene interrupted by birds choking on plastic, was intended to highlight what it claims are failings by the company.

In a report “Choke – The case against Coca-Cola“released April 10, Greenpeace claimed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft drinks company, sells more than 100 billion plastic bottles every year. Single-use plastic bottles make up nearly 60 percent of the packaging produced by the company globally, the report says.

“Coca-Cola is always keen to emphasize the importance of recycling to its customers, but is failing to substantially increase the amount of recycled material it uses to make its own bottles globally,” Greenpeace said in its report.

The company refused to provide Greenpeace with a breakdown of how many tonnes of virgin plastic packaging versus recycled

plastic packaging it sells globally each year, but Greenpeace calculates that the company uses just seven percent recycled PET content on average across its global product line.

Coca-Cola says a drop in oil prices reduced the cost of virgin plastic, which made recycled PET uptake a challenge.

Greenpeace said in its report, “100% recycled bottles are feasible and have been rolled out for a number of soft drinks products over the past decade. In 2007, Suntory’s Ribena became the first major UK soft drink brand to use 100% recycled plastic. Then Naya Natural Spring Water started using 100% recycled plastic bottles in Canada in 2009, followed by PepsiCo’s 7Up with 100% recycled ‘EcoGreen’ bottles in 2011. Hong Kong-based brand Watsons Water has offered customers ‘Go Green’ bottles since 2015 and Nestlé’s Natural Spring Water began using 100% rPET bottles in the US in 2015.”

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. The Commission says a circular economy will boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.

The Circular Economy Package consists of a program of action, with measures covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials, complete with a timeline through 2030.

The proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy, the Commission says.

The revised legislative proposals on waste set clear targets for reduction of waste and establish an ambitious and credible long-term path for waste management and recycling.

Key elements of the revised waste proposal include:

  • A common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A common EU target for recycling 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030;
  • A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10 percent of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
  • Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
  • Simplified and improved definitions and harmonized calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
  • Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis – turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material;

Finally, a key element of the proposal is economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment and vehicles.


Featured Image: Cola Consumption – Plastic Coca-Cola bottles (Photo by tk-link) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of marine and environmental experts that can help your organization with ocean economy related projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Firms Flock to Circular Economy 100 USA

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By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News)

“A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design,” says Dame Ellen MacArthur.

She has taken a special interest in circular systems. Four years after becoming the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, a 2005 record that still stands, MacArthur founded the UK charity that bears her name to advance the sustainability that flows from a well-functioning circular economy.

In the latest curve, in March the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the launch of a U.S. chapter of its popular international Circular Economy 100 (CE100) program.

CE100 brings together leading organizations such as Google, CocaCola and Apple, with the goal of innovating, developing and implementing circular economy opportunities.

The kick off event for CE100 USA members was a one-day workshop in San Francisco on March 31

Executives from SunPower, Tarkett and Walmart Stores were there. These latest corporate members of CE100 USA will share their expertise in implementing circular economy opportunities and learn from their new associates.

SunPower’s Chief Operating Officer Marty Neese said, “At SunPower, we are the first and only company to offer solar solutions that are as sustainable as the energy they produce by manufacturing Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver solar panels in facilities that are landfill-free and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.”

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with influential organizations as a member of the international Circular Economy 100, and now here in the U.S. as a member of the CE100 USA, to create a truly regenerative economy,” said Neese.

That’s really what the CE100 does, wherever the chapter is based – member organizations enjoy unique collaboration, capacity building, networking and research opportunities to help them achieve their circular economy ambitions more quickly.

They can even learn from the world’s biggest retailer. Walmart’s senior vice president of sustainability Laura Phillips said, “Walmart is pleased to join Circular Economy 100 USA to share our learnings and learn more from other companies so that we can better engage suppliers and customers in these practices.”

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ECOR biogradable, infinitely recyclable advanced material can be engineered into curves or grids, among many other shapes. (Photo courtesy ECOR Global)

Noble Environmental Technologies is a San Diego, California company, a CE100 USA member and featured innovative technology partner that manufactures design-flexible building panels from the advanced green material ECOR.

ECOR solves waste stream problems by using the discarded cellulose fiber.

Developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ECOR can be made from cellulose fibers from a wide variety of materials: office paper waste, cardboard, recycled denim and other fabrics, hemp, jute, sugar cane bagasse, corn husks, wood dust and trimmings.

When retail giant Walmart decided to commit to zero waste to landfill by 2025, they turned to ECOR. There are currently 300 ECOR display units in Walmart stores across the United States.

Used by architects, designers, furniture and cabinetry manufacturers, ECOR is Cradle to Cradle® certified. Manufacturing, done in Shanghai, produces no waste, uses no chemicals and creates a biodegradable material made from 100 percent recycled content.

There are no adhesives, no chemicals, no formaldehyde, no petroleum – no additives at all.

It’s strong, structurally solid and 75 percent lighter than conventional panel product – an endlessly recyclable alternative to wood, particleboard, fiberboard, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and other composites.

Manufactured with a simple pressure and heat process, old ECOR can be broken down again to the cellulose fiber level and put back through the process to create another batch of the material in an endless circular loop.

This is the kind of company and product that Dame Ellen believes will have advantages in a resource-constrained future.

“The circular economy offers many quantified benefits, and provides a positive way forward for businesses wishing to hedge themselves from market volatility. Our 2013 report Towards the Circular Economy Vol. 2, featuring analysis by McKinsey & Co, highlighted the US$700 billion opportunity in global consumer goods material savings from adopting circular economy practices,” she said.

Take another new member of the CE100 group, Tetra Pak, which makes drinks packaging. The Swiss-Swedish company aims to offer packages entirely made of renewable materials and is already working towards this goal.

Tetra Pak packaging materials are made up of paperboard (73%), plastic (22%) and aluminium foil (5%).

The paperboard is primarily made of materials from sustainably managed forests which carry the FSC™-label. In 2014, Tetra Pak launched its first milk package made entirely from plant-based materials – paperboard and plastics derived from sugar-cane.

Tetra Pak CEO Dennis Jönsson said, “Joining the CE100 programme reflects Tetra Pak’s commitment to maintaining a leadership position in recycling and in the use of renewable materials from sustainably managed sources.”

“For organizations which embrace the opportunities offered by the circular economy, there are first-mover advantages available,” said MacArthur. “The CE100 USA program provides key insight to support organizations in their transition, and to help accelerate their rate of circular economy innovation.”


Featured image: CE100 USA logo from Ellen MacArther Foundation

Main image: Ellen MacArthur Creative Commons license via Youtube: Circular economy a massive opportunity – meet Dame Ellen MacArthur

Making Plastic Waste Disappear

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Some plastics are just lucky, they become the raw materials for artworks. (Photo by Steven Depolo) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis,

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Every ton of plastic bottles recycled saves about 3.8 barrels of oil, says the Plastics Industry Trade Association, which has just launched a Zero Net Waste program to help members evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion.

The $427 billion U.S. plastics industry, employs nearly one million American workers and is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States.

Founded in 1937 and based in Washington, DC, the Plastics Industry Trade Association was originally the Society of the Plastics Industry is still known by those initials, SPI.

The Zero Net Waste program grew out of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Emerging Trends Subcommittee, chaired by Kathy Xuan, CEO of PARC Corp, and then developed by a broad workgroup of the association’s members.

“As chair of the subcommittee and a recycler who provides zero landfill services,” said Xuan, “we feel this program will be instrumental in providing tools and resources to accelerate the industry’s pursuit of zero waste.”

The ZNW program manual is designed to enable companies of all sizes to begin pursuing zero waste in their facilities, from building the business case for zero net waste, to educating employees and offering practical guidance on finding the right service providers.

The Zero Net Waste Program isn’t just for companies looking for Zero Waste certification, said Robert Flores, director of sustainability for Berry Plastics, a global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging based in Evansville, Indiana.

“The accompanying manual is applicable to a wide variety of companies and provides the basics for how get started, as well as how to enhance existing programs that a company already may have in place,” said Flores.

Reducing reliance on landfills provides both environmental and economic benefits, which are being driven by many of the major brand owners in the plastics industry today, said Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit based in Charlottesville, Virginia that works towards the sustainable use of materials.

“GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition support SPI’s Zero Net Waste Program,” Goodrich said. “Providing companies the tools and resources to demonstrate leadership in landfill diversion is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions and developing a circular economy.”

In Europe, companies are working towards reducing the negative impact of plastics on the environment by contributing to a circular economy, and many are seeking funding for these efforts from Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest ever EU Research and Innovation program with nearly €80 billion of funding available over the seven years 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investments that this seed money will attract.

Making Plastic Waste Disappear

Baled plastics in Switzerland awaiting a buyer (Photo by mbeo) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, ESME, manages the calls for proposals under Horizon 2020’s societal challenge, Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials.

The agency is funding projects under the Horizon 2020 program that guarantee a sustainable supply and use of raw materials, and the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.

On December 8, 2015 EASME organized a networking meeting for 21 waste-related research and innovation projects.

The meeting kicked off 13 projects selected under Horizon 2020’s “Waste: A resource to recycle, reuse and recover raw materials” call for proposals in 2015.

This year, by the call deadline March 8, the European Commission had received 333 proposals for Horizon 2020 funding for projects in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.

A budget of about €283 million is available in 2016 for projects in these areas. In April, independent expert panels will evaluate the proposals, choosing which ones to fund.

A project funded this way is revolutionizing the secure envelope market. Inspired by EU efforts to promote products made from eco-friendly materials, this Italian initiative seeks to replace envelopes made from polluting polyethylene plastic, with paper, laminated with eco-plastic that incorporates tamper-indication techniques.

The goal of the SELOPE project is to produce at industrial scale an innovative security envelope, made from certified Forest Stewardship Council paper, laminated with eco-plastics and Mater-Bi, a biodegradable, compostable bioplastic made from plants.

By using these innovative materials, the company says it cuts its CO2 emissions, diverts waste from landfills and promotes recycling and compostability.

In the UK, Impact Laboratories Ltd. has developed a method for the cost-efficient separation of mixed polymers, using a patent pending process of vertically arranged blades oscillating to produce separation.

Developed to meet the needs of the recyclers, the process involves a low capital and operational expenditure. This opens the equipment to small and medium sized recyclers across Europe, allowing them to separate plastics which are now classed as too expensive to separate.

This adds value to the recycler, creates jobs, reduces the plastic going to landfill, and provides manufacturers with a rich source of useable recycled material at a local level.

“Our technology has the potential to make a major change in the way plastics are recycled across Europe,” Impact says. “Every unit will reduce plastic to landfill by 2,000 tonnes a year, helping Europe meet the EU goals for plastic recycling by 2020.”

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Crushed plastic bottles awaiting recycling (Photo by Lisa Risager) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package.

Still working its way through the legislative process is a proposal on waste sets an EU target for recycling of 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030; and a binding target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10 percent of all waste by 2030.

It specifies simplified and improved definitions, harmonized calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU will be coupled with economic incentives for packaging producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

What is Circular Economy

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(Maximpact.com News)

Citizens of the world have realized that people do not have infinite resources. Demand on raw materials has escalated, with no management of waste and the limited supply we have of those materials. Environmental repercussions of climate change and sustainability are now at the top of the global agenda and are mission-critical.

This article focuses on the circular economy and its benefits to help combat our global problems. European countries, particularly the Nordic ones, have embraced the circular theory years ago and are reaping the benefits of zero waste economies while setting good examples for their neighbors.

What Is Circular Economy?

The concept of circular economy calls for the reuse of materials for as long as this is feasible. These materials should be used to their greatest extent and, when a person is done using said materials, should be able to renew or restore the power of these materials for further use down the line. Besides materials, circular economy may also apply to components and products.

Circular economy is in direct opposition to what is known as a linear economy. With this concept, much less thought is put into the long-term ramifications of use of a material, component, or product. Instead, this material is made, a person uses it, and then they throw away what’s left. This creates a productivity dead-end. Over the years we have become a throwaway society.

What Is the History of Circular Economy?

If any one person created the concept of circular economy, they didn’t promote themselves, because research doesn’t attribute this to anybody specifically. Instead, the move towards a circular economy is estimated to have started in the 1970s and gained momentum as the years went by.

There are numerous models that have led to the development of circular economy as it’s understood today. These are as follows:

  • Regenerative design — Credited to John T. Lyle, the concept of regenerative design is similar to what we know as circular economy.
  • Blue economy — Gunter Pauli of Belgium, who worked as the CEO at Ecover, developed the blue economy, which tells us what is left over from a product could become the basis for a new product and revenue stream.
  • Industrial ecology — Focusing specifically on the industrial field, industrial ecology deals with energy flow and material usage in this area.
  • Biomimicry — Popularized by Janine Benyus, biomimicry involves borrowing successful concepts that have already been used and redesigning them for your own purposes.
  • Performance economy — An early pillar in circular economy, industrial analyst and architect Walter Stahel developed this concept back in 1976. He believed that a circular economy could prevent waste, produce more resources, create competition, and make more jobs.
  • Cradle to cradle — Bill McDonough (an architect from the US) and Michael Braungart (a chemist from Germany) developed the cradle to cradle concept. Simply put, this model seeks to cut back on product waste and embrace more production.

How Can Businesses Use This Concept?

As you’ve seen, while circular economy can indeed apply to the universe itself and preserving finite resources, it can also be used as a business model. Business owners big and small can benefit from the school of thought associated with circular economy. Research has found that tens of thousands of jobs can be made to positively stimulate the economy just by following the circular economy model.

Are You Looking for a Circular Expert / Consultant?

At Maximpact, we can help you find the right circular expert consultant. Maximpact consulting network is a select global network of certified consultants in over 200 sectors and sub-sectors, experience in over 680 projects. All consultants are verified through a certification screening process, so that Maximpact can assist clients in making the best decision in finding the exact skill set they need.

Maximpact offers access to a network of circular, impact and sustainability consultants and experts. No matter the scope of your project or the size of your company, you can receive assistance through all stages of the project development process. Maximpact Ecosystems offers advisory, marketing, consulting, and financial services for sectors like environment, water, clean technology, renewable energy, agriculture, and more. With offices in Hong Kong, California, Abu Dhabi, and Monaco, Maximpact can help you move towards a circular economy.

Green Economies Arising Across Europe

GermanyWindfarm By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, February 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A broad political will and the involvement of many different economic and social actors are essential for successful transition to a green economy, conclude researchers from five institutes of the Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER).

For their newly published report, “Implementing the Green Economy in a European Context: Lessons Learned from Theories, Concepts and Case Studies,” the researchers studied 10 innovative cases from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

They found that successful projects include a broad range of stakeholders, have strong and consistent political support, and integrate research activities into the implementation of the initiatives.

In his forward to the report, PEER Chairman Prof. Dr. Georg Teutsch wrote, “These case studies were utilized to reveal opportunities, but also barriers and challenges for the transformation into a zero waste, renewable bio- and ecosystem-services-based production system.”

“The project aimed at producing increased understanding about the concepts and foundations for future circular and green economy securing the maintenance of a full range of ecosystem services on which society relies,” he wrote.

Transitions to a green economy are never purely based on win-win solutions, but require trade-offs among multiple goals across many sectors, the report finds.

Reaching a win-win proposition becomes more laborious the more stakeholders and competing interests there are, the researchers explained. “Sometimes win-win solutions were not enough if the alternatives remained more profitable, market structures did not encourage change or stakeholders were not committed.”

Driven to meet growing demands for food, drinking water, timber, fiber, and fuel as well as minerals, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively over the past 100 years than at any time in human history, according to the report.

“These changes are a result of traditional one-way linear economic models: resource – product – waste and may lead to depletion of natural resources and irreversible changes in the environment,” the report states.

Today, civil society, industrial and political leaders are acknowledging the urgent need for reconsideration and revision of this type of thinking.

Greening an economy is being promoted as a new strategy for enhancing human well-being and reducing environmental risk, defined as “low-carbon and climate proof, resource-efficient and socially inclusive,” according to the report.

The PEER report contains conceptual analysis and empirical case studies that indicate the need for far-sighted planning, multi-source financing and wide stakeholder participation in green economy initiatives.

Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä is the largest city in the region of central Finland on the Finnish Lakeland. It was the subject of one of the 10 cases analyzed in the PEER report.

 

 

 

 

The 10 case studies spanned national, regional and local activities.

The two on the national level are:

  • Germany’s energy transition, since the 1980s
  • Increasing the construction of large-scale buildings from wood in Finland, since the 1990s

 

The five regional cases are from France, Finland and Germany. They are:

  • A project to support the implementation of biogas plants in the area of Brittany, France (2007-11)
  • A project to minimize organic waste in the Rennes Metropole region of France (2010-2012)
  •  A project to develop the city of Jyväskylä, Finland into a resource-wise region (2013-2015)
  •  A project to form a network of Finnish municipalities that creates and carries out solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since 2008
  • An initiative to sell certificates on emission reductions to support peat land restoration, since 2010

 

The three local case studies are:

  • An industrial symbiosis initiative in the harbor area of Dunkirk, France, since the 1960s
  • Cooperation between farmers and the water company to improve soil in the Duurzaam region of The Netherlands, since 2013
  • A project on off-shore macroalgae cultivation to promote circular resource management and bio-based production in Denmark, since 2012

 

Lea Kauppi, Director General of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson.

“As illustrated by the study, the complexity and multi-sectoral nature of the green economy calls for a broad integration of sectors connected to environment, innovation, transport, housing, energy, agriculture and spatial planning,” said Lea Kauppi, director general of the Finnish Environment Institute, one of the five institutes responsible for the report, and a former PEER chairperson.

“The case studies also illustrate the need for comprehensive analysis of the effects of regulation and legislation, as well as the importance of stakeholder commitment, good leadership and coordination,” she said.

The report concludes that transforming the economy requires innovation in terms of technology, organizational support, market and broader societal conditions, and an overarching governance framework, but most of all, a consistent and cross-sectoral political will.

All the PEER partners supported the preparation of the project, and finally five institutes were the active research members: the Finnish Environment Institute, which handled coordination of the project; Alterra Wageningen UR in the Netherlands; IRSTEA – the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture in France; the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany; and the (DCE) Danish Centre for Environment and Energy at Aarhus University.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main and Featured image: This windfarm in Gemeinde Driedorf, Hesse, Germany is part of the German transition from energy generated from fossil fuels and nuclear power stations to renewable energy. June 2013 (Photo by Neuwieser) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 01: Lea Kauppi is director general of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson. (Photo courtesy Linkedin)
Image 02: A biogas plant in the Brittany (Photo courtesy Hera Cleantech)

Closing the Loop: EU Quarrels Over Circular Economy Plan

MEPs2015

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 30, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Package it says will help European businesses and consumers contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use.

But Members of the European Parliament are critical of the new package.

The Commission says its plan will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, encouraging energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing benefits to Europe’s environment and economy.

The changes are needed, the Commission says, because global competition for resources is increasing. The concentration of resources outside the EU, particularly critical raw materials, makes industry and society within the 28 Member States dependent on imports and vulnerable to high prices, market volatility, and the political situation in supplying countries.

The new Circular Economy Package sets a common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste and 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030.

The plan calls for a binding target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10 percent, with a complete ban on landfill for separately collected waste.

There will be economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment as well as vehicles, among other products.

There are also plans to harmonize the way recycling rates are calculated across the Member States.

The proposals require action at all stages of the life cycle of products – from the extraction of raw materials, through material and product design, the production, distribution and consumption of goods, repair, re-manufacturing and re-use schemes, all the way through to waste management and recycling.

All these stages are linked. For instance, use of certain hazardous substances in the production of products can affect their recycling potential, and improvements in terms of resource and energy efficiency can be made at all stages.

In July 2014, under President Jose Barroso, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package that included a proposal for the review of waste legislation in response to the legal obligation to review the targets of three Directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive, and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Then, on November 1, 2014, a new Commission took office under President Jean-Claude Juncker. In its 2015 Work Programme, the Juncker Commission announced its intention to withdraw the 2014 proposal on Waste Review and to replace it with a new, more ambitious proposal to promote the circular economy by the end of 2015.

Two main reasons motivated this withdrawal.

First, the overall approach presented in July 2014 had an exclusive focus on waste management, without exploring synergies with other policies such as the development of markets for secondary raw materials.

Second, the Juncker Commission wanted to make the proposal more country specific and improve the implementation of waste policy, particularly existing problems of non-compliance.

On December 2, the Juncker Commission presented its new Circular Economy Package to the European Parliament.

The new initiative would establish a framework to overcome past shortcomings and create conditions for the development of a circular economy “with a clear and ambitious political vision combined with effective policy tools that can drive real change on the ground,” the Juncker Commission said.

The Commission said its new package “contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness.”

KatainenJyrki

The package was prepared by a core project team co-chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, with the close involvement of Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella and Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them.”

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” Timmermans said. “By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs. With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen.”

“It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation,” said Timmermans.

Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “These proposals give a positive signal to those waiting to invest in the circular economy. Today we are saying that Europe is the best place to grow a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business.”

“This transition towards a more circular economy is about reshaping the market economy and improving our competitiveness,” said Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister. “If we can be more resource efficient and reduce our dependency on scarce raw materials, we can develop a competitive edge. The job creation potential of the circular economy is huge, and the demand for better, more efficient products and services is booming.”

The Juncker Commission is in partnership with the European Investment Bank to fund the new package.

On December 10, Vella blogged that the partners signed an amendment to the InnovFin Delegation Agreement “that will enable higher-risk, yet innovative sustainable business models and plans to access credit through InnovFin – an EU finance support programme under Horizon 2020.”

Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds will suppport the new Circular Economy Package, the Commission said.

“The proposals are a powerful enabling framework, but we will also need substantial private sector funding directed towards the circular economy,” wrote Vella. “The European Fund for Strategic Investment (the ‘Juncker Plan’) is one tool to support this. The Commission would like to also guide future investment, steering it more towards green choices, with progressive divestment from unsustainable activities.”

Vella wrote that the EIB, the Commission and national banks plan to work together to increase awareness of circular economy financing.

But many Members of the European Parliament are not impressed with the new package.

The 65 percent target is a point of contention. Although the Juncker Commission says the new package is far more ambitious than its predecessor, MEPs point out that Barroso’s team wanted to introduce a 70 percent target in 2014.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German Member of the European Parliament who sits with the European People’s Party group, told the “Parliament Magazine” that the new proposal amounts to “much ado about nothing.”

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt of Belgium said, “This ambitious roadmap needs to be supported by specific targets, and our political group will try to build a consensus in the Parliament to introduce those targets, to make sure the roadmap is accomplished.”

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, shadow rapporteur on the circular economy with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, accused the Commission of, “wasting months of work and many hours of parliamentary time.”

“With a weakened waste proposal and an action plan copy-pasted from the 2010 roadmap to a resource efficient Europe, it’s clear the European Commission is failing to deliver on this important agenda for growth and jobs,” the Dutch MEP told the “Parliament Magazine.”

Greens/European Free Alliance Group Vice-Chair Bas Eickhout commented, “While we welcome the fact that the Commission has finally come forward with revised proposals on the circular economy, we are concerned that the plans are undermined by the reduced ambition. This is contrary to the commitment by the Commission for a more ambitious proposal.”

“A year on from the initial decision by the Commission to withdraw its original proposals, we have lost both time and ambition in the push to stimulate the circular economy at EU level,” said Eickhout.

Green environment spokesperson Davor Škrlec said, “It is a major shame that the Commission is not seeking to maximize the potential of the circular economy. We will seek to address some of the shortcomings in Parliament.”

Responding to criticism of the new package, Vice President Timmermans pointed out that the legally-binding 10 percent cap on land-filling was, “completely new” and that the 65 percent target for recyclables was, “an extremely ambitious goal, which for many member states will require a huge effort.”

Key actions under the Juncker Commission’s new Circular Economy Package include:

  • Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
  • Actions to reduce food waste, including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
  • Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
  • A revised regulation on fertilizers, to facilitate the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilizers in the single market and support the role of bio-nutrients;
  • A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for reducing marine litter;
  • A series of actions on water reuse, including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.
  • A clear timeline for the actions proposed and a plan for a simple and effective monitoring framework for the circular economy.

Vice President Katainen said, “We will remove barriers that make it difficult for businesses to optimize their resource use and we will boost the internal market for secondary raw materials. We want to achieve real progress on the ground and look forward to delivering on this ambition together with not only Member States, regions and municipalities, but also businesses, industry and civil society.”

LandfillUK


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: Members of the European Parliament in plenary session, 2015. (Photo courtesy European Parliament) © European Union 2015 – European Parliament.
Featured image: Naples, Italy struggles with longstanding garbage problems, June 2007 (Photo by Chris Beckett) under Creative Commons license via Flickr
Image 01: EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen addresses the European Parliament, January 2015 © European Union 2015 – European Parliament. (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons licenses creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Image 02: Landfill at the Selly Oak Battery Park redevelopment site in Birmingham, England, May 2015 (Photo by Elliott Brown) under Creative Commons license via Flickr

World’s Business Leaders Buy In to Sustainability

CramerAron

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 18, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Best business practices, collaborative approaches to sustainable development and inspiring ways to build a better world were front and center as 1,000 business, government and civil society leaders gathered in San Francisco earlier this month for their annual Business for Social Responsibility Conference.

Now in its 23rd year, the BSR Conference is the world’s longest running sustainability event. As the world faces a warming climate, this year’s conference theme was “Resilient Business, Resilient World.”

The host organization, Business for Social Responsibility, BSR, is a global nonprofit with 250 member companies. From offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies for its members through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration.

RodinJudith

“Resilience isn’t just about bouncing back, it’s about bouncing back better”

Philanthropist Judith Rodin told delegates, “Businesses should take proactive risks to build resilience.”

“Resilience isn’t just about bouncing back, it’s about bouncing back better,” said Rodin, who has been president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a position she has held since 2005.

University of California, Berkeley Professor Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, gave what one participant called a “funny and inspiring” speech, and sold copies of his new book, “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.”

The young leaders of Silicon Valley spoke, as did the CEOs of Campbell Soup, AXA, and Cummins Inc. Videos of conference speakers are online here.

BSRReichRobert02

The annual BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Survey conducted just ahead of the conference, found that companies today are integrating sustainability more completely into their businesses, as more leaders become convinced of the benefits of sustainability.

Now in its seventh year, the survey aims to identify common perceptions and practices of corporate sustainability professionals.

In total, 440 sustainability professionals from 196 large and influential multinational companies provided their insights for this research by responding to the survey.

The survey found that “growing engagement from leadership means that corporate sustainability is increasingly driven by internal factors, rather than external events,” BSR reports.

A majority of BSR members who responded to the survey perceive “their companies consider inclusive growth a fairly high priority and feel it is driven by market opportunities.”

The first question in the survey elicited some strong responses.

It asked, “In a few words, please complete the following sentence:’The state of sustainable business is …’

One respondent wrote, “… evolving. As the corporate sector finds value in sustainable practices, you begin to see more creativity and widespread adoption.”

Another respondent wrote, ” … becoming more the norm and is becoming integrated into overall business strategy.”

A third wrote simply, ” … a business imperative.”

Human rights remains a top priority for respondent business leaders, while climate change and improving access to basic needs are increasingly important to business, the survey showed.

Professionals outside of North America are more likely incorporate the upcoming international climate agreement into their businesses, the respondents told BSR.

However, there is global support for a universal commitment to decarbonization at the upcoming United Nations climate conference set for Paris November 30 through December 11.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the UN General Assembly in September were frequently mentioned as an important external development that will drive corporate sustainability efforts.

When asked directly whether their company intended to use the SDGs to set corporate targets, professionals from almost one in three companies indicated that they probably would.

When asked what was “the most significant development or event that has driven progress in your company’s sustainability efforts” over the last 12 months, 30 percent of respondents said “Re-evaluation of corporate responsibility framework and milestones against which progress can be measured.”

One third of respondents said their companies are implementing circular economy principles, largely through design and production.

Sustainability is reported to be at least fairly well-integrated in almost seven out of every 10 companies surveyed.

The majority of companies organize sustainability under executive teams, and more than one in five embed it into compensation.

The employees responsible for sustainability most commonly report to the CEO’s office or through corporate affairs, but theirs is rarely a large department. Almost half (49%) of the respondent companies employ 10 or fewer people in their sustainability function.

In almost four out of ten (37%) of the companies surveyed, respondents said they believe sustainability is a top-five priority for their CEO.

Satisfying customers and consumers motivates corporate sustainability efforts the survey found, while market-growth opportunities and enhancement of the company’s reputation are also important drivers of sustainability efforts.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer (Screengrab from video courtesy BSR)
Image 01: Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation speaks her mind at the 2015 BSR conferenc. (Screengrab from video courtesy BSR)
Image 2: Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, has authored 14 books. (Photo courtesy BSR)

Why Social Investors Must Get Behind the Circular Economy

recycling symbol superimposed over image of trash

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

What goes around and around and comes out better for the planet? By now, most of you will guess that the answer is the circular economy.

But what is the circular economy? It’s an approach to manufacturing based on the principles of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle. The point is to preserve finite resources, such as fossil fuels, which are running out. At the same time, the principles provide a way to manage supply chains and design waste out of the manufacturing equation.

See examples of circular products

Going around is gaining ground

With roots deep in a number of different design, ecology and industrial movements including regenerative design, biomimicry, and the recent Cradle to Cradle phenomenon, the Circular Economy is less a new idea than a coming-together of several strands of thought.

Today, the concept is gaining ground in a big way with high-profile leadership from circumnavigator Dame Ellen Macarthur and her foundation as well as support from the WEF. Big companies as diverse as Coca-cola and Caterpillar, a heavy machinery manufacturer, are embracing its principles.

This rise in popularity is generating a whole ecosystem for the circular economy. New service providers, funds and accelerators are already popping up to fuel the trend. Research, such as this Nesta report on data use, is beginning to shine a light on what makes circular approaches successful. Events and conferences and even DIY toolkits are proliferating.

Why the circular economy still needs social investment

So what does this craze for the circular mean for social investors?

Despite its popularity, there are indications that this new approach to manufacturing needs the support of social investors. Significant barriers remain to building and scaling the circular economy and one of these is financial.

There’s evidence that companies making the transition to circular economy principles are having trouble raising the finance they need to adopt circular business models designed for sustainability. This is because companies in transition have special financial requirements that mainstream investors and venture capitalists are reluctant to meet. First, they must finance the ownership of products for a longer time than in a linear model. Second, existing businesses need significant investment to change established systems, such as setting up a different revenue model.

Doubts about the practicality of adopting the circular economy are being felt at high levels. In 2014, the European Commission rejected a proposal that would have established circular principles at the center of policy across the Eurozone. Though EU president Frans Timmermans promised a “more ambitious proposal” by the end of 2015, the Greens and other environmental campaigners are concerned about the EU’s commitment to sustainability and the influence of big business over government policy.

Opportunities for “circular portfolios”

All this underlines the circular economy’s continued need for social investment capital. On the positive side, the rise of the circular economy should offer tempting investment opportunities for investors, especially if, as is planned, standards can be developed.

Investors could engage in this connected market in a number of ways. First, they could put their money into funds whose portfolios focus on companies that use circular economy approaches. Themed funds in sectors such as agriculture, food retail, clothing manufacture and waste management all have potential to benefit from backing the circular way of working.</>

Alternatively, social investors can invest directly in companies that take a circular approach, or in a clutch of companies along a circular supply chain. Imagine a “circular portfolio” that includes a company that produces the raw materials, the manufacturer that turns those materials into a consumer product and the recycler that turns any product waste back into a usable commodity.

Social investors can also benefit from adopting the circular mindset and applying it to their own use of capital. By treating capital as a resource to be preserved, conserved and recycled in sustainable systems, social investors have the opportunity to deepen their commitment to this new way of doing business. The analogy even extends to the idea of waste and byproducts. Just as businesses need to design them out of their processes, social investors should avoid producing financial negatives such as toxic debts, crushed economies and unhealthy markets.

Overall, the rise of the circular economy is a positive sign that the world is ready to change consumer culture and seek more sustainable solutions, and that’s good news for us. Beyond this, the circular economy is in step with a sector-wide push for collaborative, systemic ways to tackle global problems with both resource scarcity and waste. It’s joined-up sustainability logic for manufacturing, and that’s something we social investors certainly can, and definitely should, support.