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  • STEAM Team

Circular Economy Driver: Policy & Regulation

In today's dominant Linear Economy, most producers and consumers do not practice responsible production and consumption. The mainstream economic model is to "GROW" as much & fast as possible in sectors of Mining & agriculture (extraction of natural resources), production, logistics & distribution, and consumption. We used to export our growing waste to developing countries until China enacted the "National Sword" policy in Jan. 2018, when most waste export from many developed countries has been stopped. An increasing number of countries around the world are beginning to make the transition towards a circular economy. To enable businesses in the circular economy, sustainability, policy & regulation, and governance are critical in driving responsible production & consumption.

The European Commission has created the European Circular Economy Stakeholders Platform and the EU Monitoring Framework for the Circular Economy. Details were shared by the representatives of DG Environment of the European CommissionEmmanuelle MAIRE and Barbara Bacigalupi. The circular economy indicator at the city, institution/organization level was addressed by Johannes Kisser (Managing Director of alchemia nova, Austria).

Thailand's government developed a comprehensive policy framework and is committed to developing Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy. The BCG economy framework was shared by Kitipong Promwong. Mushtaq Memon (Regional Coordinator for Resource Efficiency in Asia and the Pacific, UNEP) focused on circular economy capacity building in the Asia Pacific building and its relevance to SDGs and impact on resource and environment in the region through sustainable consumption and production.

South Korea (shared by Eugene Kwon) appears to the top running in circularity thanks to its strong government policy, regulations, and governance since the 90s, especially when the recycling policy has been implemented. This has resulted in South Korea ranked to the top among OECD countries in recycling rate over 84%, where construction waste recycling rate was above 97% in 2015.

We had the privilege of having the Inventor of the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR), Dr. Thomas Lindhqvist from Lund University, Sweden, share his insights in EPR. He stressed that the transition to a circular economy requires change. He indicated that "EPR is not about putting moral blame on producers. EPR is about finding effective and efficient solutions to problems. The one who can change (mainly producers) should be given responsibility and incentives for change (legal demands)." Therefore having policies and practice that reward such changes are critical. To ensure the effectiveness of EPR, honestly enforce laws and rules without cheating is crucial.

Prof. Arnold Tukker, from the Leiden University of the Netherlands, shared the effectiveness of policy and governance in the Netherlands. He recommends policymakers to "think in four areas (systems, technology, value chains, governance) and develop smart policies based on bottom-up initiatives, market adjustments, and rules.

Australia is represented by Hemant Chaudhary shared impressive South Australia's sustainable economic practices, including a) More than 84% of waste generated in South Australia is diverted from landfill, b) 60% of South Australia’s energy from renewables currently and to reach 100% before 2030, and c) Nearly 50% of wastewater and stormwater is recycled and reused. South Australia is operating the world's largest virtual power plant equipped with Tesla's energy storage systems. Its world's largest battery system (built by Tesla) provides security services and generation capacity and gives additional system stability to South Australia's energy supply.

Courtesy of Hemant Chaudhary (Founding Executive Director, Circular Economy Alliance Australia)

As shared by Lei SHI, China's policy today focuses on Eco-civilization whose framework integrates a circular economy with green and low carbon economy. The Chinese CE policy adopts the life cycle approach with Multi-sectoral coordination and a hierarchical policy framework. Being the most populated country in the world, it promotes and implements simultaneously at multiple scales: from clean production (firm), circular transformation (park), urban mining (cities) to CE regional pilot (regions).

Inda, shared by Prasad Modak, launched in early 2019 an action plan to accelerate Resource Efficiency (RE) and circular economy. This has been instrumental in building domestic recycling infrastructure, developing and promoting sustainable product designs, and supporting innovative business models towards a circular economy.

Shared by Isa Maria Bergman, the role of public procurement to drive the circular economy transition. She stressed the important pre-requisite is to a) Strategic understanding of CE, capacity development and co-operation, and c) Long term commitment (5-10 years) to change practices based on joint objectives between big cities and other procuring entities.

In the context of circularity of materials, CE through public procurement could include:

•Equipment: Eco design to ensure that materials are reusable, products are refurbishable, reusable, and recyclable after use.

•Construction of infrastructure: use of reusable material

•Food: the use of recycled nutrients instead of industrial alternatives

•Fuel or related services: use of residues from food production and promoting industrial symbiosis.

•Textiles: use of recycled material, recyclability, and reusability of textile products

Courtesy of Lei SHI (Executive Director, Jiangxi Institute of Eco-civilization, Nanchang University)

Courtesy of Barbara Bacigalupi (DG Environment, EC)

Courtesy of Johannes Kisser (Managing Director of alchemia nova, Austria)

South Korea's accomplishment of circular economy (Courtesy of Eugene Kwon of KECO)

South Korea's accomplishment of circular economy (Courtesy of Eugene Kwon of KECO)

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