A number of elements are required in a circular economy: knowledge about materials and design that takes the effective use of resources into account, new business models that do not reward a throwaway mentality, the reuse of resources also at the global level, and – not least – legislation, regulations and directives that support a circular economy.
“We do not believe that there is a single optimal policy for a circular economy. There are many EU directives, and many different regulations and agreements that sometimes work together and sometimes contradict each other,” says Carl Dalhammar, researcher at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), and head of the project within Mistra REES looking at policy.
The objective of the project is to draw up proposals for regulations and policy instruments that can facilitate the transition.The researchers have found major challenges within the very core of the circular economy, where also the largest losses in value occur, namely within processes such as reuse, repair and remanufacturing.“An innovative article that we have written deals with the problem of planned obsolescence, in which a product is designed to become out-of-date or obsolescent within a few years,” says Carl Dalhammar.
Regulations about ecodesign
One of the starting points of the article has been regulations about the ecodesign of vacuum cleaners and lighting, and it discusses the policy instruments that the EU can use to increase product durability.
Together with other actors that include companies within Mistra REES, the municipalities of Lund and Malmö, and IKEA and other companies outside of the programme, a number of challenges have been identified. These have given rise to several student projects, such as a study of the attitudes of young consumers to the concept of circular consumption, carried out in collaboration with IKEA.
One of the projects that has recently started concerns how quality labelling of remanufactured products could be realised – companies want to be able to communicate that the quality is equal to or greater than the quality of a corresponding new product direct from the factory.
Another project deals with the procurement of remanufactured products.
Several student projects have been started in collaboration with the municipalities of Lund and Malmö. A group of students has, for example, surveyed the second-hand market in Lund and drawn up suggestions for how a municipality can support actors of this type, and how municipalities can work with reuse. Hållbar utveckling Skåne (“Sustainable Development in Skåne”) is another partner.
“A Swedish inquiry into the circular economy will be published in the near future, and it will certainly propose policy instruments. We must, of course, consider the conclusions of the inquiry when it is published, but our project is well on schedule at the moment,” says Carl Dalhammar.