CESD #1. Bending the Linear Agenda: Circular Economy Policy Instruments, Business Models and Technology Uptake in the Plastics Value Chain

Notwithstanding the multitude of technological, business and other circular economy approaches for plastics proposed by the private sector, more conducive policy and financial framework conditions are required to turn individual initiatives into wide-scale global solutions. An appropriate mix of actionable policies capable of facilitating and accelerating a circular economy transition may include sustainable producer guidelines (e.g. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems), empowerment of consumers and public buyers, enhanced waste prevention initiatives, and incentives for the promotion of green technologies. 

These policy alternatives form the basis of discussion themes addressed by the first CESD, which focused on the circular economy in the plastics value chain and analysed enabling options and tools such as implementing EPR systems to establish regulated residual and resource streams. 

Four key messages were generated: 

  1. Embrace technological pioneers and innovations: recognise existing models that hold the potential to help businesses evolve by creating customised and localised solutions for the application of new technologies and the distribution of circularity within their respective cluster and ecosystem; mainstream the use of new technology-based circular economy business models in the plastics value chain(i.e., innovation, regulation/licensing, investment bankability).   
  2. Decide for disruptive regulations that allow for a new normal of manufacturing design: enable standardisation of circular practices across the entire plastics value chain; design and implement frameworks for processes that are reliant on producers and manufacturers depending on the re-use of materials.   
  3. Value a systems approach for functional material flows: promote an ecosystem approach to scale-up circular solutions uptake in the plastics value chain(i.e., multinational companies’ leverage on local suppliers, policy support under EPR schemes, national partnerships for action to address pressing waste and pollution challenges); develop appropriate infrastructure for plastic waste recycling and to prolong the useful life.   
  4. Phase out non-circular production and manufacturing, operationalise local and multi-national circular economy ecosystems and align circular economy stakeholders at all levels: nurture global, regional and multilateral partnerships within as well as across sectors and countries towards circularity in the plastics value chain, facilitate knowledge exchange, and promote local partnerships, especially with regards to urban agglomerations, mobilising local governments, starting at project levels and reaching alliances for systems change. 

Ten priority actions in developed and emerging countries & recommendations: 

The overarching opportunities for improving the performance of the plastics value chain converge, even though prioritization differs depending on the respective economies. Recommendations in particular are:   

  • raise awareness (policy and business decision makers, entrepreneurs, consumers)  
  • introduce and contextualize the flexible and universally applied CE terminology,  
  • advance from voluntary schemes to enforced standards and regulations,  
  • introduce cross-boundary jurisdictions and applying measures to address increasing resource consumption and waste generation in cities,  
  • align finance mechanisms to evidence-based targets and providing a variety of incentives for firms to encourage and support innovation,  
  • promote the diversification of available financial support and emerging sustainable investment schemes,  
  • include blending schemes, local banks, investment funds, angel finance, etc., 
  • promote the proper implementation of EPR systems, and promote implementation with schemes for supervision and enforcement while involving all stakeholders, 
  • shift the effort upstream (reduction / reuse) by supporting suppliers to embed CE solutions at an early stage of production, 
  • expand infrastructure distributing and promoting available technological solutions and improve skills and competences 

If you are interested to learn more or if you are working on research papers or policy briefs related to the circular economy that you would like to share, contact us! [email protected]

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