5 Main Takeaways from Seminar & Study Visit “Focusing on Circular Economy”
From 1-2 June 2017 ETCP Seminar & Study Visit “Focusing on Circular Economy“ took place in Copenhagen, with support from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and European Environment Agency (EEA). It was a partner event of EU Green Week, European Commission’s annual opportunity to debate and discuss European environmental policy. To spread the word about the important lessons learned during the event, here are our key takeaways from Copenhagen:
- ETCP’s lecturer Richard Harding provided an overview of the main Circular Economy schools of thought introduced by the pioneers in the field:
- Walter Stahel’s “Product life” and “Performance Economy”: Creating sustainable profits without externalising costs of waste; stressing the importance of selling services rather than products; ensuring longer product-lifetimes as waste prevention strategy.
- William McDonough: & Michael Braungart: 2002 Cradle-to-Cradle concept: All products are designed for continuous recovery and reutilisation, which should ultimately produce a waste-free environment;
- 2013 Upcycling instead of recycling: All material inputs and outputs from production are either biological materials (which can be composted or consumed) or technical materials, which can be recycled with no loss of quality, or even better – upcycled – transformed into products of higher quality/value.
- Biomimicry: sustainable solutions inspired by nature and products mimicking natural forms, processes and ecosystems, such as emulating plant structures to produce 3D-printed 100% recyclable chairs or applying biomimicry in architecture.
2. The event was principally targeted at EU Member States’ Managing Authorities, Intermediate Bodies and others working on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), with the ultimate aim to encourage Circular Economy related investment under the current Operational Programmes. The ETCP and EEA speakers provided valuable insights into the EU’s 2015 Circular Economy Package and addressed the challenges for Europe’s transition to a functioning Circular Economy. The package focuses on 4 key action areas: production, consumption, waste management, secondary and raw materials.
3. The seminar took place in the LEED-Platinum-certified conference centre Copenhagen Towers, allowing participants to see innovative architectural solutions put in practice, such as the sustainable interior fit-out developed by the Danish Lendager Group. To learn more about their work we visited their production site in the outskirts of Copenhagen. The Lendager Group aims to reduce the use of virgin materials by replacing them with the materials already at hand. Using waste as their biggest resource, they have built a variety of circular building projects in Denmark. The one we witnessed in Copenhagen Towers involves upcycled wood panels covering a 2000m2 indoor surface from the ground floor lobby all the way up through the 20 stories of the building (which was originally supposed to be covered with glass and aluminium imported from the other side of the globe). The upcycled wood panel project is an excellent example of how a high-end office-setting aesthetics can be maintained, at the same time raising the building’s sustainability profile.
4. Our study visit also took us to State of Green, Denmark’s green business umbrella organisation. In the House of Green we discovered why Denmark today is leading the green transition in Europe: In a nutshell, Denmark owes its success to a well-functioning public-private partnership and a long public awareness of sustainable energy (dating back to the 1970s) and importance of recycling. Today, even if Denmark remains one of the biggest waste-producers in Europe, only 5% of the country’s waste is landfilled. State of Green’s website is an excellent one-stop-shop for everyone who wants to get down to the bottom of why the Danes are at the forefront of the green transition in the EU. Our study visit also featured a presentation from Gate 21, an organisation implementing an ERDF-funded project Sustainable Bottom Line. This initiative provides grass-roots support to over 50 SMEs in Greater Copenhagen for innovative business solutions in Circular Economy.
5. At the end of the event, the participants were required to prepare their own Circular Economy Action Plans. Here, they outlined the main steps they would need to take in order to promote and accelerate the Circular Economy transition under their countries’ ESIF Operational Programmes. As a key conclusion this event highlighted the strong likelihood of a much greater emphasis on Circular Economy in the post-2020 Cohesion Policy programming period.
Much more remains to be said about the fast developing area of Circular Economy. Follow these sources to stay on track: