This post first appeared on edie.net on December 17, 2012.
The European Commission is calling for a cull of resource-inefficient consumer goods across Europe to stimulate markets for products and services that have lower lifecycle impacts.
In a new manifesto, the EC asserts that it wants to create demand for products that have better durability, repairability and recyclability designed into them.
One way this could be achieved, it suggests, is by progressively taking the worst-performing products off the market and incentivising consumers to adopt more sustainable lifestyles through their purchasing decisions. The EC also wants to encourage more sustainable sourcing of raw materials through the utilisation of waste products and adapting business models accordingly.
It argues the case for accelerating public and private investment in resource-efficient technologies, systems and skills, and suggests that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a clear role to play here through their ability to respond quicker to market demands.
"In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy," the mainfesto states. "Our future jobs and competitiveness, as a major importer of resources, are dependent on our ability to get more added value, and achieve overall decoupling, through a systemic change in the use and recovery of resources in the economy."
The document touches upon the potential role that behavioural economics and information technology could play in devising smarter strategies for a circular economy. It also emphasises the importance of 'smart regulation' — creating policy drivers and codes of conduct that will create a level playing field in which front-runners are rewarded, but that also must take into account social and international implications. Targets, it adds, must "give a clear direction" and be implemented alongside indicators to measure progress relating to land use, material, water and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as biodiversity.
The EC has pledged to issue a more detailed set of short-term policy recommendations to address all of the points set out in its manifesto next June.