Circular economy is a current theme globally, and its potential is enormous. The global circular economy markets are estimated to be worth over €800 billion and for Finland, the estimated growth potential from circular economy is estimated to be somewhere between €1,5–3,5 billion.1
The European Commission has established a common EU framework to promote the circular economy, called “Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe”. EU aims to boost recycling, prevent the loss of valuable materials, and show how new business models, eco-design and industrial symbiosis can move us towards a zero-waste Europe. European Commission estimates that better eco-design, waste prevention and re-use can bring net savings for EU businesses of up to €600 billion.2
In addition to the framework to promote the circular economy, the European Commission has also adopted legislative proposal to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU. With the proposal, the EU aims to improve waste management practices, stimulate innovation in recycling, limit the use of landfilling, and create incentives to change consumer behavior. The proposal aims, for example, to increase recycling/re-use of municipal waste to 70% and packaging waste to 80% by 2030.
For Finland, the targets are challenging but not impossible. Firstly, Finland has been a pioneer in solutions related to energy and material efficiency for a long time. Transitioning to a circular economy requires life-cycle thinking to look at all stages of a product’s life to find out where improvements can be made to reduce environmental impacts and the use of resources. Secondly, the interest towards circular economy solutions such as recycling, raw material recovery and waste handling, has been increased significantly among companies.
Forerunners can benefit and achieve competitive advantage from the circular economy by developing innovative solutions to the growing global waste problem, and finding new ways of turning waste and side streams into added value products and new business.
1 Sitra (2014). Kiertotalouden mahdollisuudet Suomelle. Available: http://www.sitra.fi/julkaisut/Selvityksi%C3%A4-sarja/Selvityksia84.pdf