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Policy landscape report on resource efficiency and circular economy

The European Environment Agency (EEA), based in Copenhagen, is an official body of the European Union whose mission is to gather information and provide guidance with regards to the integration of environmental criteria in economic policies and strategies.

Released today, its latest publication titled “More from less” gives a detailed overview of resource efficiency and circular economy legislative apparatus across 32 countries. An important exercise which provides a ‘state of affairs’, key to understanding what building blocks are in place to transition away from a model in which resource consumption is the main revenue-generation mechanism… and what barriers still lie in the way.

FlickrCC: Stuart Rankin
FlickrCC: Stuart Rankin

It emerges from the report that Germany, The Netherlands and Flanders reported having established dedicated circular economy strategies, whilst several countries seem to have integrated the necessity of leaving the linear system behind. As we’ve seen, pockets of circular economy legislation gradually take shape, for example in France where this strategy has been included within the overall Energy Transition Law (August 2015). Denmark, which provided the policy baseline and case studies for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report: Toolkit for Policymakers[1], is certainly forging ahead as well – the EEA’s mapping exercise and its 32 country profiles allows to get an overview of a landscape which so far was fragmented, thus helping take stock of legislative assets on the way to a faster transition.

As the report’s authors underline, “The majority of reported policy initiatives related to the circular economy focus on waste management, with only a few examples going beyond increasing recycling rates and a higher use of secondary raw materials.” This clearly shows that there is still a need to push the upstream (design, materials choice editing etc) elements of the circular model to the fore: even though the economic rationale is widely acknowledged, it is understood to lie mostly in net materials savings. The potential highlighted by the Growth Within[2] report may still require more resonance, notably when it comes to deriving value from the maximisation of asset utilisation rates – the inner loops of the circular economy diagram, made of reuse, sharing, remanufacturing and repurposing.

Circulate will naturally dive deeper into the EEA’s document, which will undoubtedly provide material for further policy case studies[3] – among other useful insights.

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[1] “Delivering the circular economy: a toolkit for policymakers” by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation the Danish Business Authority and Danish Environmental Protection Agency, the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, macroeconomic, NERA Economic Consulting, MAVA Foundation.

[2] “Growth Within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe”, by SUN (Stiftungsfonds für Umweltökonomie und Nachhaltigkeit) in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

[3] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/case-studies/policy

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The Author

Joss Bleriot

Joss Bleriot

Jocelyn Blériot, executive officer of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has an academic background drawing focus on literature, philosphy and sociology. Having spent most of his career in the media industry as a journalist and editor, he notably develops written and video content, coordinates the production of reports and edits books produced by Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing. He represented the Foundation on the European Resource Efficiency Platform (European Commission) and manages the relationship with EU institutions.