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The legal transition towards a Circular Economy: EU environmental law examined

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... While the barriers are generally the same, their shortcomings are specific for each material flow. In order to use a recyclate as a resource, the material flow needs to have the status of non-waste [29]. In all five cases this problem can be overcome. ...
... However, the responsibility is on the recycler to prove the quality of the recyclate, making sure it is not contaminated. This is particularly hard in those cases where the material flow is more complex and/or contains additives and other specific substances (e.g., in the plastics realm) [29]. Furthermore, existing standards prescribing a certain material composition instead of a material performance can hinder the introduction of new materials or practices. ...
... This is especially the case in highly regulated markets such as the building and construction sector. As long as hardly any legal obligation exists for information disclosure in the product chain, the above problems will remain hard to solve [29]. Similarly, limitations in extended producer responsibility legislation can hamper cooperation in the product chain to enhance circularity of products and materials [30]. ...
... This life cycle approach is characteristic of the circular economy (CE) framework, which proposes a radical shift from the linear model. The CE framework seeks to fundamentally transform economic activity by decoupling economic growth from the use of resources and moving towards zero waste (Romph 2018). ...
... The CE seeks to radically disrupt the premise of the linear economy, which comprises a causal link between economic growth and the use of resources and the necessary association of human good with economic growth (Romph 2018). The achievement of this lofty ideal requires a fundamental change of worldview where human good is identified with resource stewardship rather than economic growth. ...
Article
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Recycling clothes is lauded as a sustainable textile waste management strategy. A significant percentage of recycled clothes are exported to the Global South as second-hand clothing. Increased exports result in the accumulation of second-hand clothing waste in these countries. The result is a shift in responsibility for textile waste from consuming nations in the Global North to ‘recycling’ nations in the Global South. However, this ‘recycling fallacy’ perpetuates a form of fashion injustice. Waste laws, founded on the ‘polluter pays principle’, are ineffective at addressing the second-hand clothing waste problem in receiving countries. Therefore, the circular economy framework is influencing the redesign of waste laws. The circular economy could redress the problem by revitalising the polluter pays principle and extended producer responsibility policies and embedding life cycle approaches. This paper explores this possibility, using examples from Kenya (a major importer of second-hand clothing) and the European Union (a key exporter of reused clothing with emerging circular economy regulatory frameworks).
... Looking at products, rather than processes, shifts the policy-maker's focus from the end of the process pipe to the center stage of the market and the market's social importance as a means to satisfy the collective demands of a policy" (Ehrenfeld, 1997). Legislation doesn't expressly addresses or define life-cycle thinking yet, but the EU environmental policies, namely in the light of the CE Package 20 and the Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy 21 consider it as an important "policy principle" (De Römph, 2018). The cascading waste hierarchy, which establishes a priority order from prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling and energy recovery through to final disposal, such as landfilling, is a principle that aims to encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome (see COM/2015/0614 fin. ...
... l cited in footnote 24; in Switzerland, see art. 30 EPA), which is also reflecting a step in direction of life-cycle thinking approach. Going a step further could consist in recognizing the existence of "(EU) materials law" (De Römph, 2018) or to shift from waste to product law (Backes, 2017). ...
Article
Circular Economy (CE) is the buzzword of today, promising an economy able to prosper on limited resources by closing material cycles. However, there is no guarantee that simple strategies of material cycling, as propagated by the various definitions of this concept, will indeed lead to an economy able to manage the world's resources, pollution and societal demand within environmentally sustainable levels. Based on the shortcomings of the present mainstream definitions of CE, this paper proposes an integrative, cascading, resource-based approach aimed at an environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial economy. The international community agrees on the necessity to maintain the current environmental equilibrium to ensure equity for future generations and to allow human well-being and dignity already in the present. Accordingly, physical and environmental limitations are identified, that are to be observed to make CE sustainable. This paper then suggests that a transition towards a sustainable resource-based CE goes hand in hand with a paradigm shift in the way environmental considerations are perceived by individuals, codified in different normative frameworks and dealt with by private companies. It therefore opens the discussion by underlying some challenges that could appear in the view of transitioning to CE.
... Looking at products, rather than processes, shifts the policy-maker's focus from the end of the process pipe to the center stage of the market and the market's social importance as a means to satisfy the collective demands of a policy" (Ehrenfeld, 1997). Legislation doesn't expressly addresses or define life-cycle thinking yet, but the EU environmental policies, namely in the light of the CE Package 20 and the Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy 21 consider it as an important "policy principle" (De Römph, 2018). The cascading waste hierarchy, which establishes a priority order from prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling and energy recovery through to final disposal, such as landfilling, is a principle that aims to encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome (see COM/2015/0614 fin. ...
... l cited in footnote 24; in Switzerland, see art. 30 EPA), which is also reflecting a step in direction of life-cycle thinking approach. Going a step further could consist in recognizing the existence of "(EU) materials law" (De Römph, 2018) or to shift from waste to product law (Backes, 2017). ...
Article
Politizar la ciudad. Fragmentacion, coherencia y movimientos sociales en el programa aleman Ciudad social (Soziale Stadt) La investigacion urbana ha mostrado un fenomeno de creciente polarizacion social en las ciudades tas a aplicacion de las politicas urbanas neoliberales. Sus efectos se describen en terminos de segregacion, de ciudad dual y de ausencia de mezcla social en los barrios. Como reaccion, los gobiernos de las ciudades han desarrollado politicas territorializadas (area-based policies) que, supuestamente, contrarrestarian la dinamica de fragmentacion social. Este articulo examina el programa “Ciudad social” (Soziale Stadt) en Berlin (Alemania) y analiza si este programa tiene en cuenta los movimientos sociales urbanos que se oponen a la politica urbana neoliberal. El programa “Ciudad social” busca reforzar la cohesion y la integracion sociales, y crear una identidad comun en los barrios sin poner en cuestion realmente esas politicas neoliberales. Finalmente, el articulo defiende que las politicas urbanas deberian recentrarse sobre los conflictos politicos, las reivindicaciones de los movimientos sociales y las iniciativas de los actores extra-institucionales.
... Under EU law, (W)EEE is governed by both general and sector-specific EU chemicals, product and waste legislation, which together can be said to govern the whole life cycle of EEE [19][20][21]30]. The main legal acts within these three areas are the RoHS Directive, the REACH Regulation [45], and the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP Regulation) [46]; the Ecodesign Directive and the Energy Labelling Framework Regulation [47]; and the WEEE Directive, the WFD and Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) [48]. ...
Article
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The transition towards a circular economy in the EU requires that the legal framework does not create (legal) barriers, but rather enables or stimulates this transition. At this moment, however, the existing literature argues that the current legal system that governs the life cycle of materials and products—EU chemicals, product and waste legislation—might hamper the transition. This article looks into the legal framework for the transition of the product stream of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and more specifically into the general and specific applicable EU chemicals, product and waste legislation, as well as its implementation in the Netherlands. By means of both doctrinal and empirical legal research, this article identifies legal barriers, gaps and incentives in the current legal framework that governs the life cycle of EEE in light of the transition towards a circular economy (CE). To enable or stimulate the CE transition in the EEE chain, it appears that it would be desirable to improve the interaction within this legal system and better align it with the objectives of the CE and life cycle thinking. Moreover, this research shows that a different approach within EU chemicals, product and waste legislation could be beneficial for the CE transition. With regard to EEE, a holistic approach could enable a more circular EEE chain, either within the current sector-approach, or with a more product-specific or material-specific approach within the EU chemicals, product and waste legislation governing EEE.
... This could lead to difficulties, as both legal acts have their own obligations, procedures and terminology. 136 A second issue involves more general issues concerning coherence that are being caused by unclear relationships between legislations and unclear scopes, such as the relation between the RoHS Directive and REACH and between the RoHS Directive and the WEEE Directive. These issues can lead to legal uncertainty, double regulation, law breaches, market distortions and additional costs for operators. ...
Article
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This article examines the (lack of) coherence between the legislative fields that govern the life cycle of materials and products and thus are relevant to the transition towards a circular economy in the EU: EU chemicals, product and waste legislation. After examining the notion of coherence in law, it provides insight into the role of coherence in EU chemicals, product and waste legislation in light of the transition towards a circular economy. The article examines the (possible) issues that exist at the interface between these three legislative fields by reviewing literature and EU policy documents and looks into the relation between these issues and the (lack of) coherence between EU chemicals, product and waste legislation. It is argued that, when looked at in light of the transition towards a circular economy, several issues might be related to a lack of coherence. Nonetheless, the aspiration to achieve full coherence should be looked at critically.
... The new Green Deal launched by the European Commission in December 2019 depicts an overall change of paradigm in European environmental policies; indeed, it was proposed as a system of investment plans called the "Just Transition Mechanism" to support a sustainable use of natural resources and environmentally friendly technologies aimed toward a circular-economy model. The European Green Deal strengthens a market-oriented philosophy in environmental policies [32,33]. ...
Article
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Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) require an urgent transition from a linear to a circular economy operation/design concept with a consequent resource recovery and more sustainable waste management. Natural resources have to be preserved, and wastes have to become an opportunity for recovering resources and materials (water reuse, energy, sludge reuse). However, the transition toward a circular economy is a complex and long process due to the existence of technical, economic, social and regulatory barriers. These existing barriers are critical challenges for a modern and sustainable WWTP concept. The recovery of resources must be considered a strategic target from the earliest process-design phase. In this context, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project “Achieving wider uptake of water-smart solutions—WIDER UPTAKE” aims to overcome the existing barriers (technological, regulatory, organizational, social and economic) toward the transition from a linear to a circular economy model for WWTPs. This study is aimed at increasing the awareness of the existing barriers to a circular economy and summarizes the key contributions of the WIDER UPTAKE project in terms of water reuse, sludge reuse and nutrient recovery.
... In this perspective, the European Union has developed the above-mentioned Action Plan for a Circular Economy which provides for horizontal and vertical measures to be taken forward in line with the better regulation principles, including where appropriate an impact assessment ( de Römph 2018;Hughes 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
The fashion industry has to play an important role in the path towards sustainability and the circular economy. Indeed, the fashion industry is a sector with a high environmental impact; it involves a very long and complicated supply chain, which is associated with large consumption of water and energy, use of chemical substances, water and air pollution, waste production and finally microplastic generation. In particular, textiles and clothing waste has become a huge global concern. Against this background, this paper aims at analysing the existing EU measures that have an impact on the development of sustainable practices and the transition to a circular economy in the fashion industry, with a particular focus on the EU revised legislative framework on waste adopted within the Circular Economy Action Plan of 2015.
Article
The circular economy (‘CE’) is a political goal to shift the economy towards a more circular and sustainable one. Data sharing shall close information gaps in the predominant economy and, hence, form the backbone of the transition to a CE. As part of the recent legislative proposals from the EC, “digital product passports” (‘DPPs’) are expected to constitute one-stop shops for such data and information delivery. The principal idea of DPPs is to provide product information to interested stakeholders within and outside the product value chain. However, many challenges arise with DPPs, in particular how to reconcile a broad (if no ‘open’) access to data while preserving the (legally protected) interests of certain actors, and the lack of trust concerning data use and quality between the actors. Our hypothesis are (i.) that such challenges are related to the absence of an appropriate (data) governance model for DPPs and (ii.) that data governance as a main concern within the data economy agenda could inform the regulation and operationalisation of DPPs. We analyse the – lack of - (data) governance of DPPs, both in the literature and in the recent legislative proposals from the EC. We find that data governance is significantly overlooked or considered only from a pure technological perspective (techno-solutionism), which is likely to jeopardise DPPs. As both a confirmation and a way forward, we establish connections to data governance as per the data economy agenda. In turn, the analysis of DPPs governance informs the general discussion on data governance.
Article
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In Sweden, landfills are excavated on a relatively modest scale (mainly for the purpose of decontamination, to increase landfill capacity or to free up land for other uses). Lately however, aspirations for excavations aimed at recovering energy and materials have increased and an important goal according to the Mineral Strategy of Sweden is to increase the recycling rate of metals and minerals and reduce the amount of waste. The incidence of certain (critical) metals and minerals, including REE and phosphorus, is moreover assumed to be relatively large in Swedish landfills, and the interest in excavating landfills is therefore expected to increase. The legal situation as regards excavation of landfills in general and of mining waste in particular, is however unclear, not least regarding permit requirement according to the Swedish Environmental Code. Even though landfill recycling may entail numerous negative environmental effects, e.g., acidic and metallic leachate, release of gases, and destabilization of land the regulation of the activity is not clear. The aim of this paper is to describe and problematize the legal situation as regards landfill excavation in Sweden against the backdrop of, on the one hand, a potential increase in the demand for recycled metals and minerals, and on the other hand comprehensive requirements for a non-toxic and healthy environment.
Technical Report
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Die Circular Economy markiert einen Paradigmenwechsel: von einem derzeit linear strukturierten „Take-Make-Waste-Wirtschaftsmodell“ zu einer Abkehr vom heutigen – dem Produktionsprozess nachgelagerten – Umgang mit Abfall. Für eine Umkehr dieser dominanten linearen Strukturen in Wertschöpfungsketten müssen alle beteiligten Akteure umdenken. Das beginnt bereits bei einer Produktneugestaltung unter zirkulären Vorzeichen und erfordert eine konsistente Neuausrichtung aller nachgelagerten Wirtschaftsprozesse im Bereich Produktion, Auslieferung, Rückgabe. Ziel der Arbeitsgruppe war die Erstellung eines wissenschaftsbasierten und praxisorientierten Berichts für die erfolgreiche Umsetzung von Geschäftspraktiken zur Förderung einer Circular Economy (CE). Die Arbeitsgruppe „Zirkuläre Geschäftsmodelle“ der Circular Economy Initiative Deutschland (CEID) hat sich aus einer Systemperspektive heraus folgende Aufgaben gestellt: a. Ermittlung und Beschreibung akteursspezifischer zirkulärer Geschäftsmodelle und ihrer Interaktionen mit Partnerorganisationen im Geschäftsmodell-Ökosystem b. Erstellung einer integrierten Darlegung bestehender Barrieren für zirkuläre Geschäftsmodelle c. Identifizierung digitaler und regulatorischer Treiber für zirkuläre Geschäftsmodelle d. Ableitung spezifischer Handlungsempfehlungen für Entscheidungsträgerinnen und Entscheidungsträger aus Politik, Industrie und Wissenschaft, um den Systemwandel hin zu einer Circular Economy zu beschleunigen
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Circular Economy (CE) represents a disruption of today’s linear ‘take-make-waste economic’ paradigm. It is not an end-of-pipe approach to tackling ‘waste’. Turning the dominant linear structures into value cycles requires a rethinking by all involved actors. It starts with circular product redesign and demands a consistent realignment of all subsequent business processes of value creation, delivery, and return. Overall objectives, mission of the working group The aim of this report was to develop a scientifically based practical manual for the successful implementation of business practices for advancing a Circular Economy. Taking a system perspective, the task of the related Circular Economy Initiative Deutschland (CEID) working group on ‘Circular Business Models’ (CBMs) was: a) to identify and describe actor-specific circular business models (CBMs) and their interactions in business ecosystems b) to provide an integrated presentation of existing barriers to CBMs c) to identify digital and regulatory enablers of CBMs d) to derive specific recommendations for action addressed to decision makers in the areas of politics, business and science in order to accelerate system transition towards a Circular Economy. Key findings and positions of the working group on Circular business models - Business models are a key lever for companies to embrace the Circular Economy. Ideally, a business model aligns circular value creation activities with opportunities to capture economic value. Greater adoption of CBMs in business practice by pioneers and followers is crucial to triggering the desired transformation process of industries and society towards a Circular Economy and generating a self-reinforcing momentum. - The isolated optimisation and profit-maximisation of individual actors’ business models no longer satisfies the demands of a Circular Economy. Effectively transforming existing value chains into value cycles requires a holistic view and the designing of circular ecosystems consisting of complementary value-generating actors. The CBMs of actors within the value cycle have to be aligned, with one of the actors taking the role of a centralised orchestrator, so that the combined value creation activities can indeed reach circularity at the system level. This requires all actors in the value cycle to not only share a vision of circularity, but also to distribute profits in a way that ensures the long-term commitment of contributing actors. Digital technologies will play a crucial role in moving towards and further reinforcing value cycles. - To reduce the complexity of CBMs and make them applicable in business practice, the working group proposes a typology of 22 CBM patterns covering both business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets. The patterns provide practitioners with a comprehensive overview regarding their respective focus, circular potential, and product design needs (see the ‘Business model patterns overview’ figure below). The patterns can be combined by a single actor to build a more comprehensive business model and interlinked across actors in the value cycle to build business model ecosystems.
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