June 21st, 2019
The inclusion of a circular economy module in the Government’s new Climate Action Plan is a “welcome change” according to experts.
A circular economy aims to reduce waste at all stages of the production cycle and ensure materials are used as efficiently as possible for a reduced carbon output.
Targets in the plan include developing a circular economy action plan and supporting eco-design for Irish companies, as well as aligning with the EU Circular Economy Package finalised in March 2019.
Environmental groups have been calling for a transition from a linear economy to a circular economy for some time.
Cillian Lohan, CEO of the Green Economy Foundation said “it’s great” that that Government are recognising circular economy as “a tool for climate action”.
Mr Lohan said, however, it was “disappointing” that the plan appears to make circular economy and waste “synonymous”.
He said that goal 135 in the plan, developing the circular economy action plan, would be “crucial” as to how we move forward as a country.
“It needs to be a move from a linear to circular economic model,” he said.
CEO of the Rediscovery Centre, Dr Sarah Miller said that governance and oversight of the plan will be “essential” to turn it from a “plan into action”.
With regards the proposed circular economy action plan, Dr Miller said that it is “long overdue”, adding that it should be “prioritised and fast-tracked”.
Public consultation on the action plan is due to begin in the third quarter of 2019 in advance of publication in the second quarter of 2020.
“If we’re going to transition, we need a plan that doesn’t just focus on waste. It’s about managing how we live, the consumption, production and distribution of products as well,” Ms Miller added.
“It’s important to remember that 40 per cent of carbon associated with products comes from their production and less than 2 per cent comes from the waste management,” she said.
Simon O’Rafferty, strategy designer and author of the study ‘Moving Ireland towards the Circular Economy’, said the public consultation process moving forward should be “deliberative and co-creative”.
He also believes that Ireland needs to support the emergence of innovative start-ups that are “enabling circular business models and future jobs”.
“Ireland has some possible advantages in the digital and tech sectors which can drive the underlying services and data infrastructures for a circular economy,” he said.
“We are not yet capturing the true potential of a circular sharing economy, digital manufacturing methods, artificial intelligence and block-chain, digital services and social innovation,” he added.
Mr O’Rafferty also maintained that Ireland needs to look at its physical infrastructure.
“We need to consider reintroducing reprocessing infrastructure in Ireland. We already have one of Europe’s largest PET drink bottles reprocessing companies in Ireland providing decent jobs, so we need to start developing further,” he said.
By Marianne Foody