October 21, 2014
The Guardian reported on the debate earlier this month in Brussels, with MacArthur and a number of others “outlin[ing] the European legislative and policy levers needed to transition to a circular economy” in the region.
She spoke about a “transition” from linear industrial processes to “restorative mechanisms that can keep resources in use for longer”, though the newspaper notes this is “challenging […] not least because it requires systems redesign at every level”. However, MacArthur noted that “sheer determination” and “overcoming entrenched attitudes and behaviours” will help to ease in the idea of a circular economy in Europe.
A number of those present were “in favour of policy intervention” in the form of “strengthening business obilgations around eco-design and producer responsibility”, which in turn would “stimulate market demand for more goods and services”. MacArthur’s foundation in turn is looking to create a policy toolkit to help identify what “legislative levers” are needed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, which The Guardian notes should help “more progressive policy makers”.
The European Commission (EC) in particular was marked as one such progressive body, and member of the EC cabinet for the environment, William Neale, told the debate that the proposals “had taken the Commission outside of its comfort zone […] it’s not something we are used to dealing with”, but added that this was largely due to “what and how to make the markets work […] when you start to talk about remanufacturing, reuse and prevention”.
He added that certain areas of WEEE legislation revision “should help promote moves towards circularity”, and that the EC “was pushing for minimum rules for extended producer responsibility” to “make businesses more accountable for the products they produce and sell once they have been used by consumers”.
The EC is also “keen to hear from those businesses innovating at the sharp end […] we don’t always hear from the progressive companies […] we need to find a way to get that advocacy happening here in Brussels”. MacArthur in turn stated that “if investment within the EU was focused on business models that could accelerate […] growth from resource constraints” there would be a “massive opportunity here for us in Europe” despite the “huge challenge to shift” from linear to circular.
She commented: “I can’t deny that [transition would be a challenge] for a second. But it depends on the way that you see this. One of the biggest challenges is the change in mindset. Because the case studies are there, we know that this is possible; we’re able to do so much of this. We are very used to hearing the words ‘legislation’ or ‘taxation’ as something very negative, but they can be hugely positive things, they can really help to steer. There’s an opportunity here to reset things.”
Recycling, she concluded, is “the loop of last resort” in a circular economy, as “most of the value in a circular economy lies along the inner loops; the reselling, the remanufacturing, the disassembly, the de-componentisation. Within a circular economy, the recycling increases because companies are creating a system whereby those products come back”.
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