Brussels — On 23 June 2015, the FEAD President, David Palmer-Jones, welcomed more than 100 participants from 17 Member States to FEAD’s Biennial Conference in London, among which representatives from the EU institutions, UK government, NGOs and the European waste management industry. The event was held in co-operation with the UK Environmental Services Association (ESA).
In his key speach David Palmer-Jones emphasised: “As the private waste and resources management industry, it is our belief that moving towards a more circular economy in Europe will bring both environmental and economic advantages. Improving the efficiency with which we use material resources is in all of our interests. Provided circular economy measures are framed sensibly, and in full consultation with all those involved in making it happen, they will be positive for jobs and growth. We also believe that the industry FEAD represents plays a key role in the transition to a more circular economy. We have the skills and the experience to work with partners in the value chain, to reduce waste and recover materials and energy, and we have the capacity to invest for the future.”
To catalyse the rate of change
The opening words were followed by Sally Uren, Chief Executive at Forum for the Future. She supported FEAD’s vision of achieving more circularity in Europe and stressed what is key to make the circular economy work – the need to think systemically and to ensure resilient secondary raw materials markets: “We need organisations such as FEAD to catalyse the rate of change”.
Kęstutis Sadauskas, Director Green Economy at the European Commission’s DG Environment, called upon FEAD to continue providing ideas for concrete measures to accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy, so to step up the implementation on the ground. He said that we should draw lessons from previous EU funding periods to ensure intelligent planning of investments and avoid market distortions: “EU funds must be used wisely”.
Lack of economic instruments and improper application
Peter Hodecek, member of the FEAD Administrative Council, focussed on the poor enforcement of waste legislation in Central and Eastern Europe (PL, CZ, RO, HU, SK). He also explained how the lack of economic instruments and improper application of the public procurement procedures hamper private investment, thereby creating barriers to achieving sustainable growth in a resource efficient and environmentally sound way. EU funds should not be used for re-municipalisation and to set up redundant waste management infrastructure.
The European Commission was also represented by Vincenzo Gente (DG Research and Innovation) who focused on the key role of research and innovation in a circular economy, and by Sander Happaerts (DG Regional Policy) presenting the need for an effective use of EU funds in achieving it. Other innovative financial instruments to support investments were highlighted by Jonas Byström from the European Investment Bank.
Limited resources but high product standards
Several speakers addressed eco-design measures and incentives to promote reusable, repairable and recyclable products. Colin Church, who spoke on behalf of the UK’s Department for Environment (Defra), said that as long as products are appealing to consumers, they will be willing to buy green products, provided there is no significant price difference. The new UK government will focus on productivity which is key to sustained economic growth. Stephane Arditi (European Environmental Bureau) stressed that the EU has limited resources but high product standards, and that these should be used as one of its main strengths in global competition. Both he and Paul Ekins (University College of London) demonstrated that higher resource efficiency holds the potential of boosting economic growth and productivity.
Discussions were also dedicated to the practical measures already being taken by leading waste and resource management companies to apply circular economy principles in their operations and so reap the economic and environmental rewards. Forbes McDougall (Veolia) and Stuart Hayward- Higham (Suez) highlighted how innovation, investment and eco-design already contribute to a greater circularity.