Project Background

NEW_InnoNet & Circular Economy

The European Commission adopted the Communication "Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe" and annex to establish a common and coherent EU framework to promote the circular economy. Turning Europe into a more circular economy means:

  • boosting recycling and preventing the loss of valuable materials
  • creating jobs and economic growth
  • showing how new business models, eco-design and industrial symbiosis can move us towards zero-waste
  • reducing greenhouse emissions and environmental impacts

The EU2020 strategy and the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe call for a change of the current economic structure: from linear towards a circular structure, connecting this transition with economic and business opportunities. Traditional value chains are linear, which is literally reflected by the final destination of used products: landfill sites or the incinerators. Circular economy introduces a new way of thinking. Questions like “Who will buy this?” or “Who has need for this?” are becoming more important than “Where can I dump this?”. However, circular economy works only if profitable for all players in the circle. It is also requires thinking outside your own value chain. Learning from experiences from one value chains enables harmonisation and standardisation over different value chains. Technologies and best practices that have been developed and proved effective in one value chain may trigger a change in others as well.

New_InnoNet will facilitate these processes:

  • Identify bottlenecks where the material loops do not close
  • Develop solutions through business driven innovation
  • Propose business cases for a circular economy
  • Initiate strategic partnerships to implement these solutions
  • Inform value chain actors about business opportunities and initiatives in line with circular economy

From linear to circular economy

Targeted value chains, waste streams and materials

As pilot areas, NEW_InnoNet focuses on the electronic, automotive and packaging chains. Currently these chains create high environmental impacts generating waste streams such as waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs) and plastic packaging waste, which could be converted into new raw materials such as plastics, metals and minerals. These waste streams represent significant potential for recovery of materials within the value chain, and can provide lessons-learnt and best practices for other value chains and sectors.

New-InnoNet distinguishes between value chains, waste streams and raw materials and focuses on three value chains:

Each of these value chains generates waste. The respective waste streams are:

  • Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
  • End-of-Life Vehicles
  • Packaging waste

The waste streams, if properly treated , lead to raw materials such as metals, plastics and minerals that can be used by a variety of sectors and value chains. The choice for these three value chains was based on three main criteria:

  • volume and thus the potential to achieve environmental benefits
  • presence of the waste throughout Europe
  • potential for transferability of the future use cases

Key documents - Circular economy:

Key documents - Waste stream:

Every year, end of life vehicles generate between 8 and 9 million tonnes of waste in the Community which should be managed correctly. In 1997, the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a Directive which aims at making vehicle dismantling and recycling more environmentally friendly, sets clear quantified targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of vehicles and their components and pushes producers to manufacture new vehicles also with a view to their recyclability. New and stricter EU legislation aims at increasing the recycling levels of ELVs to 95% and higher.

The European Packaging and packaging waste directive 94/62/EC deals with the problems of packaging waste and the currently permitted heavy metal content in packaging. The Directive obligates member states to meet targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste. The Directive covers all packaging placed on the Community market. Targets are set as a percentage of packaging flowing into the waste stream. The Directive sets targets for recovery and recycling, requires the encouragement of the use of recycled packaging materials in the manufacturing of packaging and other products and it requires packaging to comply with 'essential requirements' which include the minimization of packaging volume and weight, and the design of packaging to permit its reuse or recovery - requires the implementation of measures to prevent packaging waste in addition to preventative measures under the 'essential requirements', which may include measures to encourage the re-use of packaging.