Policy Framework for Material Resource Efficiency : Pathway Towards a Circular Economy
Abstract: The strategic direction of the European Union (EU) over the past twenty years has focused on increasing resource productivity and innovation in the economy, aiming at the efficient use and secured supplies of resources, economic growth and job creation, with fewer environmental impacts. One of the basic premises of the new ‘Green Deal’ for Europe is the promotion of the circular economy. The aim of a circular economy is to create a more sustainable society by decoupling economic growth from resource consumption.The EU Circular Economy Action Plan contains a clear vision that businesses will play a significant role in the shift to a circular economy model, by implementing circular business models that encourage prolonged use of products, components, and materials. The Plan also stresses the importance of appropriate enabling conditions for this shift. Policies that enable the adoption and upscale of such business models play a central role within a framework for material resource efficiency.The overarching aim of this research is to identify gaps in the current EU policy landscape relating to utilisation of material resources, and to investigate appropriate policy interventions. The research uses an interdisciplinary methodology with case studies of Swedish firms adopting circular business models. A ‘bottom-up’ approach is applied, with business input forming the basis of a proposed policy framework for material resource efficiency.Eight distinct policy measures constitute the core of the policy framework, bundled together in a resource efficiency policy package: eco-design rules for product durability, repairability and recyclability; product standards for repairability and standards for secondary raw materials; circularity criteria in public procurement; quality labelling for reused products; a national reuse target; funding measures for capacity, technology and innovation development in recycling and reuse value chains; support for resource and information exchange platforms; and a ban on the incineration of recyclable waste.The analysis identifies the conditions needed to improve implementation of each individual policy measure, but also reveals instrument interdependencies within the policy mix. Possible ways to improve implementation of the suggested policy framework are discussed.Finally, based on theories of the policy process, a number of challenges are identified in the process of integrating resource efficiency policies in the current policy landscape. Potential future research directions are suggested to help remove these bottlenecks in the transition to a circular economy.
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