Key takeaways EU visit: circular economy

To Fast-track the circular economy in the EU the next commission benefits from “Europe’s first mover-advantage”. They do not have to start from scratch like the current commission had to, they can actually speed up the transition and kick-start exponential growth. Key is to stop talking and start doing on a big scale. Make 1000 mistakes and learn. Innovate. And restart again.
  • The circular economy should not be an island on its own: look for coalitions, such as agriculture, health, climate, digital innovation, biodiversity, mobility, etc. Merge solutions to create an inclusive circular economy.
  • Use the circular economy to empower less established countries in the EU. Work together with other countries, regions, and cities. Inspire each other and show that the circular economy is a chance for growth instead of a ‘green bubble’ that is yet another competitive force only available for the West.
  • Concept wise everyone is on board with a circular economy. However, keep in mind that you have to deal with the implications about what it means for everyone. Also for the regions, sectors, and countries that rely heavily on the extraction of natural resources, who will be against this transition. Go into dialogue, look for useful competencies and use those in the transition: involve them in the plans instead of decided for them. Additionally, keep in mind that there is no ‘one sizes fits all’-approach to this transition. It needs to be customized per region/sector/country.
  • There needs to be a coherent EU policy on the taxation shift from labour to natural resources.
  • We should stop using the label and word ‘waste’ to create the possibility to let reusable materials cross our borders and extract their maximum value. I would suggest using ‘secondary resources’ for pre-used materials you extract from products versus primary resources you extract from the earth.
  • In our current economy, human capital is undervalued, natural capital is not valued and economic capital is overvalued. To close all loops, create a new value system, reduce the use of raw materials and facilitate the social side of the circular economy these three need to be in balance and need to be valued in accordance with the circular economy principals.
Janez Potočnik concluded his panel with the following question: ‘Are we humans part of nature? We’re supposedly intelligent, so let’s prove it!’
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