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The good news is that:
- Europe published its circular economy action plan in 2020,
- Luxembourg presented a circular economy strategy in 2021 (see www.circular-economy.lu),
- Joe Biden recently called out for the “right to repair” and there is a rise of so-called repair cafés in which communities come together.
The first step is in fact “rethink”, which means starting with the design of high quality products that last longer (reduce), can be repaired for reuse and disassembled, so that the components and materials can be properly recycled or returned to the biological cycle (in case of biobased materials). The Ministry of Economy is supporting companies to embrace this journey, e.g. with the “Circular by design challenge” and the “Fit4Circularity” subsidy programmes.
In order to really support all the mentioned circular business models we must also make sure that the relevant information on the circular properties of a product is made available to the person willing to go down that path. This is a critical point which is tackled by the “Product Circularity Data Sheet” initiative (PCDS) launched in 2018 by the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy. It is gathering more than 50 companies which have developed a threefold system which permits the communication of trusted circular properties along the value chain. The initiative includes the writing of an ISO standard, with the support of ILNAS.
In order to enable circularity the experts generally agree that several aspects need to be improved using different factors, like increasing durability, higher quality, longer longevity, reparability, availability of spare parts, usage of sustainable materials, etc as explained before.
Providing reliable and transparent information about the circularity of a product or service (e.g. the PCDS as industry standard, but also consumer labels such as the reparability index in France) is also an essential condition for creating trust along production and consumption value chains. Most importantly, however, our society must acknowledge that both resources as well as the biological regeneration capacity of our planet are limited and the overall material footprint of our society needs to decrease dramatically. The circular economy is a tool for achieving this goal, and the question is not about online-shopping or the price of products, but about the alignment of business models and products with the principles of a circular economy.
Luxembourg has, so far, not estimated a national gap analysis as several other countries have done, with very disenchanting results. At global level our economy is estimated to be circular at less than 9% (https://www.circularity-gap.world/2022). But STATEC is working on indicators to measure circularity for Luxembourg, where the difficulty for collecting such data often resides in the characteristics of our economy (e.g. huge import and export flows, high levels of services, etc.).
A very good indicator for the discrepancy between actual and desired state is already now the earth overshoot day, where Luxembourg ranks in the champion positions. Mid of February 2022 we had already consumed all natural resources the planet earth can provide us to last for a whole year, which means that we are living on the expense of many poor people around the world and of our children.
There are several risks mainly linked to availability of resources and also environmental impacts of the generated waste. Today the overconsumption model is putting a strain on the availability of raw material and also pushing their price up. Moreover, we are facing an acceleration of the climate crises and rapidly declining biodiversity, threatening the fundamentals of life on earth, or at least the survival of higher developed species such as man. Added to this will be conflicts around resources, from water and food to fuels and minerals. We must make sure that consumption comes back to normal acceptable levels that is considered sustainable for the world. The circular economy offers a lot of opportunities for doing better from an economical point of view while creating social and environmental benefits.
These tips are of course very personal, but I believe that a lot is happening with our own habits. Asking the right questions will make you consume more responsibly:
1. Do I really need this product?
2. What can I do to consume less, e.g. by sharing with others?
3. How can I make the products I have last longer?
4. How can I make other people benefit from an item I am no longer using?
5. What else can I do in order not to throw away an unused item?
About the blog:
There is an urgent need for rapid transition to global sustainability. Business and industry have enormous social and environmental impacts. "Why does it matter?" is a bi-monthly blog that aims to elucidate this important topic through the eyes of our experts.
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