The European Commission has recently adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package. The aim of this package is to stimulate Europe's transition towards a Circular Economy, with the intention of boosting global competitiveness, fostering sustainable economic growth and generating new jobs in the future.

“We want to increase competitiveness in the international business environment. Europe has a lack of natural resources compared to other countries; we import six times more than we export. We can increase investment and production by making the Circular Economy our competitive advantage”, said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at a European Citizen dialogue about the Circular Economy, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

What is the Circular Economy?

The Circular Economy is a model that proposes an alternative to the traditional linear economy, which has been ruling the industrial landscape for the last hundred years. Products made using the traditional economic model are intended to be used for only a period of time and then thrown away, a cycle which produces tremendous negative effects on the environment. On the other hand, the Circular Economy keeps these resources in use for as long as possible, extracts the maximum value from them while they are in use, and then recovers them and regenerates new products and materials at the end of their service life.

Karmenu Vella emphasised that the revised Circular Economy package is intended to promote the new opportunities for business that arise from this model. Although the main focus at the beginning of the Circular Economy package was in the paper, plastic and water industries, Vella stated that the next step would be to focus on the construction and demolition industries, where he believes there are a lot of ways to reuse and repurpose the materials.

Is the EU infrastructure ready?

The Commissioner said that Europe’s main competitive advantage is in its highly-skilled workforce, even though that means that the cost of wages is higher than in the rest of the world. He is optimistic that this is the optimal environment to develop highly durable, innovative, and resource-efficient products,  which consumers not only need, but are demanding, due to their increased environmental awareness.

He believes that this new package points the EU country members in the right direction. He pointed out that even though different countries will develop at different rates in the adoption of the Circular Economy polices, some industries will move faster than others. This is the case with the energy industry, where a lot of resources have been allocated to the development of more environmentally-friendly energy sources and the adoption of alternative energy powered vehicles by government institutions.

“There is still a long way to go”, he emphasised to the public, with regard to the current transportation networks of Europe. But he assured the audience that this was just the beginning of the implementation of the Circular Economy model. “I’m pleased to say we are moving really fast”, he commented.  The dialogue finished on a nice note, with 51% of the attendees believing that the EU is taking action to stimulate the transition to a Circular Economy.

Now that the game plan has been laid out for European businesses, what will it take for businesses to adopt this strategy?

Mr. Vela mentions that now the implementation phase has started, and he expects that policy changes would be kept to a minimum in order to foster growth and innovation.