Circular economy offers a path to sustainable recovery

16 July 2020

The post COVID-19 recovery plan should be huge, as its effects on people and economy have, in many cases been devastating. To guarantee resilience over the long term, it must also fully support the green transition.

With this in mind, the circular economy, which has the potential to raise EU GDP by billions of euros, and create around 700,000 extra jobs by 2030, should be seen as an integral part of that recovery.

This is one of the messages of a new EUROCITIES policy statement on the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, that sets out how cities, as major engines for economic growth, can drive the circular economy in order to unlock economic, environmental and social benefits.

Getting this right will require coordination and collaboration across all levels of government, and cities, where over 50% of global waste is produced, must be included in those discussions.

According to the network, the EU’s new Circular Economy Action Plan is a good starting point, and should be adopted immediately, but to ensure it lives up to its potential, clear targets are needed. This will help to monitor the implementation of the plan and encourage the overall reduction of our material footprint in the EU.

“Moving towards an economy based on reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering requires concerted action from governments, business and people alike,” says Anna Lisa Boni, secretary general, EUROCITIES. “City administrations have a hand in many aspects of the economy, and it is essential that national and European guidelines allow cities the flexibility to implement appropriate solutions to match their local context.”

There are several ways for city authorities to influence the local value chain, such as leading by example or supporting businesses and other stakeholders. In recent years waste generation in Europe has continued to increase, and while waste collection and sorting is a traditional competence of city authorities, more focus needs to be put on how to turn waste that cannot be avoided into a resource that respects different local systems, including through more use of Extended Producer Responsibility.

Among the many recommendations set in its paper, EUROCITIES highlights that the identification of circular indicators at EU level, based on circular rather than linear data, could help cities measure progress and adjust its targets over time. The Urban Agenda Partnership for Circular Economy, in which EUROCITIES was a key partner, developed a set of indicators to help cities benchmark their progress in the transition towards a circular economy. This would also help cities ‘to unlock their important purchasing power potential’ states the paper.

Indeed, cities’ strategic use of public procurement can send an important signal to the market. The position paper outlines several ways that the European Union could help facilitate cities ability to do this, thus supporting the creation of innovative, green and circular solutions.

If everyone on the planet consumed resources in the manner of the average European, we would need almost three Earths to sustain the global economy, according to data from the Global Footprint Network. Clearly, the transition to a circular economy can help to protect resources, prevent waste generation and decrease our GHG emissions.

Read the EUROCITIES paper on ‘Speeding up the green transition of the EU’s economy’ here: