20 January 2016

Circular economy: developing the knowledge base

Circular economy: developing the knowledge base

On 18 January 2016, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a report entitled “Circular economy in Europe - Developing the knowledge base”.   According to the authors, fundamental changes throughout the value chain (from product design and production processes to new business models and consumption patterns) are required in order to create a circular economy. In this respect, recycling will turn waste into a resource and extending product lifetimes will help preserve natural resources.

The report notes that the benefits of transitioning towards a circular economy could be considerable.  It would reduce environmental pressures in Europe and elsewhere, and minimize Europe’s high and increasing dependence on imports.  Circular economy strategies could also result in considerable cost savings, increasing the competitiveness of Europe’s industry while delivering net benefits in terms of job opportunities.

The report also highlights a series of existing good practice examples as businesses are already employing or experimenting with, for example, new service- and function-based business models and collaborative consumption. The authors furthermore stress the need for governments to increasingly foster waste prevention, reuse and repair. Nevertheless, such a transition requires a substantial expansion of the knowledge base in order to chart progress and identify where more work is needed to achieve change, noting that several indicators already exist. 

In terms of construction, a case study which focuses on waste prevention in the Austrian construction sector is presented.  With construction and infrastructure development identified as one of the key sectors for waste prevention the Austrian waste prevention programme has  developed a building-passport concept as part of a building material information system. It aims to connect architects, suppliers and statistical registers to enable the careful, selective demolition of buildings, enabling reuse and high-quality recycling of building materials, and to support the prevention of waste by extending the use of houses through improved maintenance schemes.

More information: Report

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