Serbia should get a circular economy roadmap by the end of a year, as well as a platform to link representatives of state institutions, civil society organizations, and international organizations, said Slobodan Perović, assistant minister for strategic planning and projects at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, at the 10th Mikser Festival, held under the slogan “Circulate!”
Perović, who was one of participants in the Circular Serbia / Steps to the National Plan on Circular Economy panel, said that the intention is to propose for the platform to be part of the office of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and its operations center to be run by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in order to secure a better horizontal coordination of ministries.
In current circumstances, there is not much room to secure financial incentives for companies to turn to the circular economy, he said, adding that it is more likely for the state to support innovation, research, and education to help accelerate the acceptance of the new way of thinking and doing business.
“We’ll know that we are on the right path once the circular economy is built into all public policies. That’s the goal,” he said.
At the same panel, which was opened by Dutch Ambassador to Serbia Henk van den Dool, roadmaps of Finland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia were presented. Participants in the first panel were also Antoine Avignon of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Olivera Zurovac Kuzman of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and Siniša Mitrović of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.
Finland: Reducing citizens’ average carbon footprint four-fold
Kari Herlevi, director of the department for a circular economy at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, presented the world’s first circular economy roadmap, which Finland prepared in 2016.
He recalled that cars in Europe are parked 92%-98% of the time, while offices are empty 60% of the time and a third of food is wasted.
The circular economy does not mean recycling – which is still better than the linear economy – the circular economy aims for zero waste, he said, adding that the concept is crucial for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Herlevi noted that the circular economy primarily entails changing the economic model.
His advice for all countries is to produce roadmaps, which he agrees can be challenging as many companies see it as an attack, rather than as a chance.
The average carbon footprint of Finland’s residents is 10,300 kgco2e, and the plan is to reduce it to 2,500 kgco2e by 2030.
According to surveys conducted by Sitra, 87% of citizens believe that it is very important to transition to the circular economy before 2025. At the same time, however, citizens’ personal transition is proceeding at a slower pace – 74% believe that action is needed to protect the environment, while only 24% frequently borrow or rent things or products rather than buy them.
The Netherlands: National Agreement on the Circular Economy
Some polls in the Netherlands, which is also a pioneer in this area, were not as encouraging, with 50% of respondents not knowing what the circular economy is.
Hans van Ek, advisor at Holland Circular Hotspot, says that the country’s plan is for the use of raw materials to be decreased by 50%.
The circular economy pioneers in the Netherlands, including public institutions, the business community, unions, environmental protection organizations, educational institutions, financial institutions, and another 350 signatories, initiated the introduction of the model by signing the National Agreement on the Circular Economy in 2016, Van Ek said.
The transition began in 2017 and should be completed by 2050.
Some of the business examples he cited include a model to reduce, reuse, and recycle organic waste at source; technology to obtain bioplastic from wastewater; and the use of material passports to prevent the generation of construction waste.
Slovenia: Incorporating the new model into all strategic documents
Ladeja Godina Košir, founder and executive director of Circular Change, cited raw materials and wars as the main reasons for the circular economy.
Wars are always waged over raw materials, making it clear their use needs to be reduced, she said, noting that China’s cement consumption over three years has matched that of the United States in the entire 20th century.
Godina Košir recalled that repairing products, as an important element of the circular economy, is not something new – washing machines, cars, TV sets all used to be repaired not to so long ago.
The idea, however, is not to reduce the quality of life, but to increase it, albeit in a different way, she said.
Slovenia’s roadmap was prepared in 2018, she said, noting that it was very important that three strategic documents – the Vision 2050, the Development Strategy, and the Smart Specialization Strategy – envisaged the circular economy.
According to her, the main impediments include human behavior, a lack of long-term strategy, efforts to preserve the status quo, implementation on the ground, and no desire to think outside one’s own field.