Circular economy for better resource management

author: Janez Potočnik, UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme
published: Nov. 9, 2016,   recorded: November 2016,   views: 3499


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The 21st century is not only marked by globalisation but also rapid population growth, per capita consumption, growing environmental issues, such as climate change and increased pollution, which primarily affects our health, as well as enhanced stratification and resource scarcity. Access to resources – soil, water, minerals, oil, gas – and their availability were always in the background when it comes to the fine line between war and peace, as an important element of security and economic prosperity/success. Last year marked a turning point. Two important global agreements were reached. The first one being the agreement on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September in New York. The second one is the Paris Agreement which sets out a global action plan to fight climate change. The agreement on SDGs is comprehensive and entails all aspects of our lives, while the Paris Agreement focuses on one of the 17 goals of sustainable development – climate change – and operationalises it. I consider the agreements as a new contract which recognises the importance of transitioning to coexistence which is based on sustainable principles. A new economic model designed to substitute wasteful use of resources for responsible practice is of key importance in order to transition to a sustainable society. It also presents the opportunity for a new, innovative impetus. In the European Union this transition or the new economic model asserts itself through the so- called concept of circular economy. Circular economy could be described in one sentence as an approach used to retain different resources in the production and consumption process for as long as possible. This can be achieved in various ways, by changing the product design, the production process, using a new business model, and also by recycling. However, there is no simple solution that could apply to everything. The transition to circular economy is important for the EU not only from the environmental standpoint, but also in terms of improving competitiveness.

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