Establish a circular economy! We exploit, create value and then waste. This is how our current economic model works, and it is absolutely unsustainable. It is unfair to others, who are affected by inhumane working conditions or poisoned living areas. It is also unfair to future generations, who will not be able to use the resources that we are wasting. Let's make change happen, push things forward and move toward a circular economy!
What will we do first?
Solve the waste problem in Europe and stop plastic-based pollution.
What’s going on?
For many decades, economies have followed linear production models based on the assumption that resources are abundant, easy to source and cheap to dispose of. This has led to a situation where we dumped more than a massive 2 billion tons of waste per year and have generated more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic. More than 60% of discarded material goes to landfill or is incinerated, although scientists claim that more than 90% of such materials could be reused, recycled or composted. If we keep up our current behaviour, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050! In addition, the procurement and distribution of many raw materials are associated with severe corruption problems, inhumane working conditions, environmental destruction, children labour, resource scarcity, to name a few.
European economies remain largely wasteful and environmentally inefficient: waste management systems and related policies in Europe are not harmonised, and continue to rely on traditional business models (e.g. “the more you sell the more you earn”) that incentivise unsustainable behaviour.
What is our vision?
We want to live in a world where economies are based on longevity, renewability and dematerialisation. Alternative models have proven effective and their wider adoption will make a transformative impact not only in Europe but worldwide. This will require a complex transition involving new government policies, corporate action and change in consumer behaviour. We want the circular economy to become the desired model for European societies. What is needed is concerted action across Member States to establish the right framework conditions so that circular economy principles are consistently applied across Europe. And yes, we want zero plastic in the oceans by 2040!
How do we get there?
We do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are valuable examples concepts that describe well how a transition towards the circular economy can be achieved. Volt welcomes the 2015 EU Circular Economy Action Plan. However, we can all do better: politicians, scientists, industries and consumers. The following list of actions reflects our priorities to kick-start the circular economy in Europe.
1. Support innovative business models and technologies so that circular economy principles are designed in from the start . Introduce increased budgets for research, innovation and start-up services to incentivise innovative projects. Consider price caps, enhanced control mechanisms and transparency initiatives (such as eco-labels) to facilitate market entry for new players of the circular economy.
2. Promote the creation of sharing economies through enhanced information technology, new incentive models and closing-the-loop systems. Fully implement Green Public Procurement measures to support it (e.g. new concepts for governmental car fleets and car sharing) and make funds available to bring approaches of design thinking and digitalization (industry 4.0) into big business and the circular economy in Europe.
3. Introduce harmonised tax incentives and set up speedier regulatory processes for innovative front-runners. This will help designers and pioneers develop and implement sustainable products with longer usability and useful after-lives. This should be aligned across Europe.
4. Establish large research and innovation funds enabling best practices in sustainable waste management to be quickly replicated such as Greece’s first-ever integrated waste management centre. It is also crucial to identify 7 and prioritise actions in regions particularly affected by waste and toxic emissions.
5. Secure the supply of critical raw materials , ensure fair-trade and 8 sustainable supply chain management measures and start a transparency initiative. Producers should provide more information about their supply chain and the origin of their resources. Labelling and improved monitoring systems need to be implemented in order to increase transparency. More ambitious regulations with specific drop-out or reduction targets, a sunset date and concrete numbers shall be set up to decrease the consumption of unsustainable raw materials.
6.Develop a European-wide harmonised and circular waste management system and re-design regulations on secondary raw material usage and recycling so that coherency is reached and sustainability principles are applied consistently. For example, there should be one coherent European system for bottle recycling, household waste management should be regulated in a standardised way, take-back systems shall be introduced with an emphasis on extended producer responsibility. Best practices should be rapidly mainstreamed across industries and systems.
7. Provide broad support (financial and political) to successfully implement the new EU Strategy for plastics in the circular economy; establish a powerful network of stakeholders taking concerted actions to move away from the plastic-based society. We need smarter plastics, alternative materials, and solutions to collect the plastic waste from oceans and beaches - the bad legacy of the past. Volt wants to support best practices to create a future that is less dependent on plastics, e.g. by (1) banning the sale of single-use plastic cutlery, trays and cups across all European Member States, (2) banning disposable packaging in public buildings, including bottled water and beer, plastic plates and cutlery, (3) making it an obligation to use reusable items at big public and private events. Additional policies and regulatory 9 actions shall be further examined, including a tax for plastics and packaging.