What is a circular economy?
Today’s economy is based on linear consumption, encompassing the three main steps: production – use – disposal. Primary resources such as crude oil and metals are extracted and further processed into electrical equipment, packaging material and other consumer products. In Europe, about 58 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year. Once the products are out of use, they are disposed of and often end up in landfills. This implies an immense loss of valuable, non-renewable resources, as well as negative impacts on the environment. To date, only 32% of collected plastic waste are recycled, however almost 43% were energetically recovered in incineration plants and 25% went to landfill (Plastics Europe 2019). Therefore, a closed circular economy that reuses, remanufactures or recycles materials (cf. Figure 1) is essential for sustainable development, as set out in the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.
The plastics industry is an important and strong economic sector of the European Union – accounting for more than 360 billion Euros turnover in 2018 and directly employing more than 1.6 million people (Plastics Europe 2019). In order to transition the sector towards sustainable circular solutions, efficient plastic production and waste management systems are necessary. This is where the EU project Circular Flooring ties in, further developing an innovative recycling process for PVC flooring waste and upscaling it from laboratory to technological scale.
- EU publication: a circular economy for plastics
- European Stakeholder Economy Platform
- EU Publication: Circular Economy in Europe, Developing the knowledge base
- Publication by Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Completing the Picture – How Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change
- Publication by Ellen MacArthur Foundation: New Plastics Economy 2019 Global Commitment Report
- OECD publication: Business Models for the Circular Economy