For example, if 95 per cent of mobile phones were collected after use, materials worth more than a billion euros a year would be preserved. The introduction of the circular economy would reduce the pressure on the environment, increase the security of the supply of raw materials, competitiveness and innovation, create an estimated 580 thousand new jobs, and consumers would have longer-lasting, more resilient and valuable products, the European Parliament said.
The EU’s common goal is to recycle at least 55 per cent of municipal waste by 2025, and the target is increased to 60 per cent by 2030 and to 65 per cent by 2035. In terms of packaging waste, the common target for recycling is 65 per cent by 2025 and then 70 per cent by 2030 with separate targets for specific materials.
However, the proclaimed goals are one thing, and the reality is sometimes something completely different. Experts warn that the circular economy in the world has come to life rather unevenly. The EU has identified the transition to a circular economy as one of its priorities, which should enable a climate-neutral economy by 2025, but the problem is how to balance significant differences between member states. Not all of them are equally advanced in waste management, and among the less successful is Croatia, which should have established a comprehensive waste management system by the end of this year.
It is not only a new model of waste management and attitude towards resources and the environment but a completely new way of life that demands responsibility from all of us citizens. In this context, we will certainly deal with this topic regularly in future editions, and for this introductory article, we asked Andreja Pavlović, head of the Institute for Nature Protection and Landscape at the Institute for Applied Ecology – Oikon, for framework clarifications and comments. “In order to bring the circular economy model closer, it is necessary to first explain what kind of economy we have today – a linear economy. When we say that something is linear, we can also describe it as straightforward: what happens in the shortest way. This is exactly what is happening in today’s economy: the shortest route is from resources to products, which once used up end up in landfills. The lifespan of products is getting shorter because they want to encourage and accelerate the purchase of new products “, emphasizes Pavlović and adds that the EU has decided to put an end to this model by encouraging the transition to a circular economy.
“In a circular economy, it is no longer just the approach to disposal that is important, but also the way resources are used, the way of production that should enable packaging and other waste to be avoided or minimized in the beginning, and it is certainly important to extend product life. enabled them to be repaired, borrowed or reused, ”Pavlović explains.
She adds that the benefits of switching to a circular economy model are numerous and far-reaching. “First of all, we are reducing our total and individual environmental debt, which is marked earlier every year because our debt is growing. What does this date mean? It is a day in a calendar year when each country uses up its available reserves of natural resources, and at this time when everyone would live like Europeans, we would need 2.8 planets of Earth. We need to use the resources we need to produce smarter (awareness that they are expendable) and more efficiently. The transition also opens up the possibility for anyone thinking outside the box to focus on eco-design that takes into account the environmental impact of the product throughout their entire life cycle. We must not forget that this transition goes hand in hand with the engaged fight against climate change “, Pavlović emphasizes.
According to her, citizens are aware of the importance of introducing the circular economy in everyday life, and this is especially true for millennials and Generation Z as well as senior citizens who generally have a sparse relationship and are aware of the importance of waste as a resource for new production. “What citizens often lack is infrastructure, but also internal motivation. Companies act because they have to, but also because they want to. The motifs are mixed in both cases. Patagonia is an example of a company that has opted for an extremely unconventional approach to marketing its jackets. They decided to show how much resources they spend on its production during the Black Friday sale, and then they said – don’t buy it. The goal of the company was to raise awareness of all (recycled) materials used in its production and what was the environmental cost of its production. What is most important in the transition is a change in the way citizens and companies think, and progress is visible. However, if the citizens will always and above all give preference to the cheapest products, then we still have a very long way to go to the circular economy “, warns Andreja Pavlović.
Funds for the construction of this road exist, but the tracing of sections is done through individual projects that require structured engagement from entities – institutions and companies – in order to implement such steps. One of the most significant in this regard is the LIFE Program, a financial instrument of the European Union established in 1992, through which almost 5,000 projects in the field of environment, nature and climate activities have been financed so far. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy of the Republic of Croatia is the National Contact Point for the implementation of the LIFE program, through which informative events and consultations on project proposals are organized. Since the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the EU, 25 LIFE projects have been financed in our country, and their average value is around 2.5 million euros.
Nikolina Petković Gregorić, Head of the Service at the National Contact Point for the LIFE Program, points out that all legal entities registered in the European Union can apply for these projects and that the beneficiaries can be from public institutions, associations and the private sector. “Apart from solving targeted environmental and climate issues, LIFE projects foster synergies and cross-sectoral integration and have a significant socio-economic impact and contribute to economic growth and sustainable development in various sectors – from agriculture, tourism, waste management, energy to transport”. explains Petković Gregorić.
She adds that the green and circular economy and the efficient use of resources are among the priority topics funded by LIFE. “In particular, projects that contribute to the implementation of the concept of the circular economy and relate to ensuring the use of high quality secondary raw materials, waste materials and/or waste in value chains are encouraged,” said the head of the LIFE National Contact Point.
By the way, the European Commission has adopted an ambitious package on the circular economy to help European businesses and consumers move to a stronger economy in which resources are used in a more sustainable way and which is more circular. The proposed measures, such as recycling and reuse, will “close the cycle of product life” and benefit both the environment and the economy. The plans will enable better utilization of all raw materials, products and waste and achieve their highest value, which will increase energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals cover the total life cycle of products: from production and consumption to waste management and the secondary raw materials market. This transition will be financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds, from which € 5.5 billion has been set aside for waste management, to be complemented by € 650 million under Horizon 2020 (EU research and innovation funding program) and investments into the circular economy at the national level.
Following the entry into force of EU rules in July 2018 with binding targets for recycling and waste reduction, national legislation on this basis was required to make adjustments for the transition to a circular economy. According to the brochure “LIFE Program and the Circular Economy”, published last year on its website by the Ministry of Environment and Energy, five sectors have been identified as priority areas of the circular economy action plan: plastics, critical raw materials, food waste, biomass and bio-based products as well as construction and demolition waste. Thus, for example, the action plan provides for the adoption of a strategy for plastics that addresses the issues of recyclability and biodegradation, the presence of hazardous substances and marine litter. Critical raw materials that have a high economic value and are sensitive to supply disruptions, as a rule, occur in electronic devices with low recycling rates, so the action plan initiates activities to encourage their recovery. Activities related to food waste include better labelling and means to achieve the global goal of sustainable development, ie reducing food waste by half by 2030, according to the brochure, which I would definitely recommend to all those interested in this area.
As in other topics we cover on the pages of our magazine, I can emphasize here that life goes on despite the ubiquitous corona crisis that has seemingly occupied all our resources. There is no question that the COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented global challenge, but other issues, such as environmental pollution and climate change, are definitely not losing importance. Therefore, even in these conditions, it is important to point out the need for transformation from a linear to a circular model of the economy in order to ensure the survival of our way of life. And that way must be in harmony with nature and resources it gives us.
Everyone has a role to play in this process – institutions, states, companies, brands and individuals. And each of them is crucial to ultimate success.
Therefore – let’s be responsible and save our resources at every step of that long roundabout!
Circular economy – Statements
Procter & Gamble has been working on sustainable development measures for more than 50 years, and significant progress has been made in the past 10 years. Most of the environmental goals that were set by 2020 have been achieved. In the field of climate, absolute greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 16% since 2010, water use in production facilities has been reduced by 27% since 2010, and zero rates of production waste in landfills has been achieved by more than 80% of production facilities. But we do not stop there, we have set new goals within the project “Ambition 2030” and continue to work hard and invest large resources in plastic recycling, stimulating the circular economy and responsible consumption.
It is predicted that by 2050, 10 billion people will live on the planet, which will put increasing pressure on natural resources. We borrow these resources from future generations. We must live responsibly using natural resources because change begins with us. Each of us is part of a circular economy. P&G has already made huge progress with PureCycle technology, which has enabled the production of recycled plastic packaging with the high purity of the final product. With the packaging thus obtained, there is almost no difference between recycled and new plastic, which has so far been the main obstacle to the use of recycled plastic. P&G in Central and Eastern Europe has seven plants in which circular management is applied. Given that we do not have a production facility in Croatia, we persistently recognize, initiate and support numerous local initiatives, and in 2020 we supported three projects important for the environment throughout Croatia: “Together for a cleaner Adriatic”, “Let’s clean the Adriatic together plastic beaches ”and“ Bees, come back! ”.
In order for the circular economy to come to life, a comprehensive shift towards sustainability is needed, and dm bases its socially responsible business on this. Sustainability must become a way of life, work, business and production. That is why dm has been actively working for many years to integrate the guidelines of sustainable development by implementing sustainable business processes, investing in the development of the range and implementing socially responsible campaigns aimed at educating citizens. At the Group level, we have launched the “Climate Neutral Products” initiative, which aims to develop products that will have the least possible impact on the environment. As part of the project, we analyze the impact of each phase of the product life cycle on the environment – from the collection of raw materials and production to transport and disposal. We have already introduced numerous innovations and sustainable alternatives in the dm brand range. We replaced the plastic handles on the ebelin hygiene sticks with cardboard ones, and we replaced the Profissimo plastic straws with stainless steel and silicone straws.
We also offer a number of dm brand cosmetics that do not contain microplastics, which includes all alverda natural cosmetics and a number of dm Balea face, body and hair care products. Since 2018, we have been continuously expanding the dmBio brand’s offer with food products bearing the Demeter label. The Demeter label indicates that the products are manufactured in accordance with the Demetra organization’s guidelines, which guarantee the highest standards of bio-dynamic production. Also, in February, we withdrew disposable plastic bags from sale and offered customers sustainable options. The implementation of the circular economy model in dm’s operations is also reflected in the project worth more than HRK 14 million, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The project will replace the existing technological solutions in the Administrative and Distribution Center with more sustainable solutions in order to reduce energy consumption, increase the share of the use of renewable energy sources and reduce CO2 emissions.
The linear economy model (take-make-dispose) has been accelerating for the last 40 years. At the heart of the buy-consume-throw model is a culture of waste: just looking at the products says they are disposable, there is no attention and awareness to what is left of them and what will be discarded. The linear economy does not work effectively on planet Earth. It never is and never will be. Linear processes consume time, money and resources – they are simply not sustainable. A plastic bottle made from petroleum products takes tens of millions of years to reach you – and yet everything is lost in just five seconds when thrown in a trash can or dumped on beaches or streets.
A linear economy is a failure when we look at the bigger picture and don’t consider how future generations will use the same resources as we do. Therefore, it is extremely important to change awareness and start applying the settings of the circular economy at all levels of society as soon as possible so that from an early age constant education is applied in society and encourages responsible use and disposal of packaging so that packaging is responsibly collected and reused. TOMRA actively participates in the daily collection of packaging throughout the Republic of Croatia. More than 150 million packaging units are collected annually through TOMRA systems. In the segment in which TOMRA participates, we see that the situation in Croatia is getting better every year and the number of collected packaging is increasing, which means that the refund system in Croatia works very well. Citizens and communities on the one hand, and companies and institutions on the other, are equally responsible for such good results. Of the many activities we carry out globally, we can highlight that at the conference “Our Ocean”, which was held in October 2019 in Oslo, TOMRA President Stefan Ranstrand announced the company’s commitment to be able to collect 40% of plastic by 2030 packaging produced globally, while for comparison only 14% of the total plastic packaging produced is collected today. Furthermore, the plan is to recycle 30% of the collected plastic packaging in a closed loop, while today only 2% of such packaging is recycled.
ProtectionSaponia places great emphasis on sustainable development. By actively investing in new production processes, we have redirected our own business and brought it closer to sustainable principles. Here we primarily mean washing and cleaning products that carry the prestigious EU Ecolabel certificate, which means that they meet high environmental standards and thus contribute to sustainability and show Saponia’s focus on development based on the principles of sustainable development. We also joined the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in the project of joint cooperation through the Croatian Platform for Plastic Waste as a framework to help connect stakeholders in the value chain, in order to achieve a circular economy in accordance with new EU legislation by product groups. In addition, Saponia has three ongoing projects related to the circular economy and sustainable development. The projects are co-financed by Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Union. EU funding so far amounts to 235,607 euros, and talks are underway on new projects also related to the circular economy and reducing environmental impact, as well as obtaining new, innovative materials, especially packaging.
In 2017, Mars launched a long-term “Sustainability Plan through Generations” program that focuses on three interrelated areas that we consider important drivers of sustainable development and where we believe Mars can contribute the most to addressing them: Healthy Planet, Human Prosperity and Welfare.
We have made significant progress over the past few years, achieving the goal of sending zero waste to landfills from our plants, and we plan to reduce raw plastic consumption by 25%, then by 2025 achieve 100% plastic packaging reused, recycled or composted. We focused on activities related to climate protection, responsible use of water and land, and packaging, which is an important factor in ensuring that our products meet the highest market standards. Thus, packaging officially became part of the “Sustainability Plan through Generations” program in September last year, because we believe that there is no sustainable product in unsustainable packaging. We are continuously reviewing our packaging approach and making further efforts to reduce the packaging we do not need, redesign the packaging we need and continue to invest in innovations that will help us close the circle. Our approach best describes the slogan – “The world we want tomorrow starts with the way we do business today” – it is an explanation of our thinking and what we are already doing as a company.
A direct contribution to solving the problem of pollution with plastic packaging is a key part of Coca-Cola’s comprehensive mission World without Waste. Through this mission, Coca-Cola is committed to helping collect and recycle the same amount of empty packaging from the market by 2030 for each bottle or can it sells, and have at least 50 per cent of packaging made from recycled material. In addition, by 2025, all of our packagings will be recyclable. Thus, as a result of our innovations, last year Römerquelle mineral water became the first water in Croatia with a complete range made entirely of recycled plastic bottles.
The extent to which we consider the transition from a linear to a circular economy model is sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that VeeMee was founded three years ago with a mission to ensure a cost-effective and viable transition to a circular economy through an online platform, smart logistics and digitalization of traceability procedures – context of the fresh food trade. Note that the problem with the content of the label alone is the cause of 15% of food returns from retail centers (VeeMee Data), which ultimately leads to 135 million tons of waste, i.e. food thrown away at EU level in just one year.