Friday, 23 January 2015

Circular Thinking



By Neelum Mohammed
Senior Sustainability Consultant, CBRE

The circular economy, in other words an industrial economy that makes maximum use of its resources, is becoming increasingly critical for the property and construction industry.

Beyond the core principles of recycling materials, the circular economy is based on a restorative principal.  Material flows – biological and technical nutrients - are designed to either safely enter the biosphere or circulate at high quality without entering. The overriding rationale is a myriad of interconnected resources which, when combined, will improve the atmosphere at large and the built environment.
(See here)

In terms of legislation on this matter, the Circular Economy package, announced in the summer of 2014 has been withdrawn by the European Commission. In its place the Commission intends to present a more ambitious plan, which will be put to a vote this month.

The original package set out to aim:

  • Recycling and preparing for re-use of municipal waste to be increased to 70 % by 2030
     
  • Recycling and preparing for re-use of packaging waste to be increased to 80 % by 2030, with material specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90 % for paper by 2025 and 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030)
     
  • Phasing out landfilling by 2025 for recyclable (including plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste) waste in non-hazardous waste landfills – corresponding to a maximum landfilling rate of 25%
     
  • Measures aimed at reducing food waste generation by 30% by 2025
     
  • Introducing an early warning system to anticipate and avoid possible compliance difficulties in Member States
     
  • Promoting the dissemination of best practices in all Member States, such as better use of economic instruments (e.g. landfill/incineration taxes, pay-as-you-throw schemes, incentives for municipalities) and improved separate collection
     
  • Improving traceability of hazardous waste
     
  • Increasing the cost-effectiveness of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes by defining minimum conditions for their operation
     
  • Simplifying reporting obligations and alleviating burdens faced by SMEs
     
  • Improving the reliability of key statistics through harmonised and streamlined calculation of targets
     
  • Improving the overall coherence of waste legislation by aligning definitions and removing obsolete legal requirements
Time will tell how this pans out and if it’s implemented. It will give economies a more sustainable footing, encourages a secondary commodity market and the definition of waste would become obsolete. In effect, ‘one mans’ waste is another’s resource’ which should generate new green jobs, and for SMEs another potential manufacturing and offshoot industry in the UK.
     

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