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Circular economy

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Snapshot

CALL 5: The transition to a circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised, is a priority for the EU . Water is one of those key resources in the transition and the circular urban water management is of a particular focus. 
Waste water is the largest untapped waste category of circular economy. Re-use of water (for instance for urban irrigation) could improve from separation of water from chemical contaminants. Water and waste water systems are significant energy consumers in Europe (according to ENERWATER project (H2020) the 22 000 waste water treatment plants in Europe use more than 1% of the overall electricity consumption in the EU) . The European Commission adopted in February 2018 a proposal for a revised drinking water directive to improve the quality of drinking water and provide greater access and information to citizens. It will help EU countries to manage drinking water in a resource-efficient and sustainable manner so as to reduce energy use and unnecessary water loss. It will also help reduce the number of plastic bottles following increased confidence in tap water, improved access and promotion of use of drinking water. In line with the principles of the new European pillar of social rights, the proposal contains an obligation for EU countries to improve access to safe drinking water for all and to ensure access for vulnerable and marginalised groups. 
At the same time, the European Commission has launched an evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Directive with the objective to identify what has worked and what are the remaining key challenges in the collection and treatment of urban waste waters.
Among the many sectors facing specific challenges in the context of the circular economy, the European Commission is also taking decisive steps on plastic recycling. In May 2018 was proposed new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear, as part of European Plastics Strategy to tackle wasteful and damaging plastic litter. The measures proposed will contribute to Europe's transition towards a Circular Economy, and to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the EU's climate commitments and industrial policy objectives.

 

CALL2: According to the action plan set out by the EU, a transition to the circular economy will contribute in the efforts to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy. It will allow for products, materials and resources to be maintained for as long as possible in the economy reducing the generation of waste. 
In Europe, cities are home to over 70% of the population and they centralise the bigger part of its economic activity and growth. Cities are heavily dependent on external resources to meet the demands of their citizens for food and energy for instance. It is also in cities where most goods are consumed generating large volumes of waste. Urban authorities therefore provide the ideal context for the development of the circular economy thanks to their close proximity to their inhabitants, service providers, and businesses.
Another important priority stated by the action plan concerns water reuse. Water scarcity and droughts have worsened in some parts of the EU in recent decades, with damaging effects on our environment and economy. Climate change projections point to a worsening situation as regards water availability in various parts of Europe. In addition to water-efficiency measures, the reuse of treated wastewater in safe and cost-effective conditions is a valuable means of increasing water supply and alleviating pressure on over-exploited water resources in the EU.

 

 

Without being prescriptive in terms of the types of projects expected, cities are invited to consider in particular the following points and issues:

CALL 5: Innovative solutions for the reduction of plastics and other pollutants such as pharmaceuticals in urban waste and waste water streams, with a focus on:

•    single use plastics (that most frequently end up in the oceans as specified in the Directive on single use plastics);
•    collection of plastic litter, micro plastics and other pollutants from water run-off and storm water overflows;
•    promote collection and separate treatment of waste water polluted by pharmaceuticals at typical hotspots. 
Innovative solutions for more circular urban water management, including:
•    making waste water collection and treatment plants climate-neutral or climate-positive - reducing energy consumption / energy production; 
•    exploit the full potential of the re-use of urban waste water;
•    better water use efficiency / reduction of water consumption, and improving water access and affordability for the vulnerable and marginalised groups. 

CALL 2: 

•    Cooperation with local manufacturers and retailers or citizen-led initiatives and third sector/social enterprises as a good way to promote more durable, reparable and recyclable products.
•    Supporting industrial symbiosis would allow cooperation between businesses and the utilisation of surplus resources generated by industry.
•    Cities can influence consumption patterns through the encouragement of re-use and repair.
•    Promotion of a collaborative economy which shares products or infrastructure would see citizens and businesses consuming services rather than products. 
•    Tools such as Green Public Procurement and Public Procurement of Innovation with criteria developed by public authorities can ensure that the sustainability, durability and reparability when setting out or revising criteria.
•    Improving the management of municipal waste representing 10% of the total waste stream in Europe.
•    Prevention of food waste (100 million tonnes wasted annually) along the value chain by taking different steps including changing behaviours through awareness raising campaigns. Further development of urban composting systems, linked to urban farming and hydroponics projects.
•    The recycle or re-use of materials from construction and demolition projects, one of the biggest sources of waste in Europe and many of which take place in cities.
•    Waste from electrical and electronic equipment such as mobiles, TVs and washing machines of which high numbers are concentrated in cities is expected to reach 12 million tonnes by 2020. Cities struggle to manage this type of waste but could play a key role in recycling and re-using the rare earth materials and precious metals they include, reducing the dependence on importing them.
•    Promote water reuse (e.g. rainwater harvesting), as a measure to address water scarcity and droughts.
•    Contribute to measurable and replicable resource-efficiency solutions by documenting baseline use and progress observed, through standard indicators and appropriate data collection, formats and sharing and publishing rules.
•    Ensure that any solution adopted to handle data is interoperable and based on open standards.
In order to make a transition to the circular economy a reality, the European Commission expects urban authorities to involve all stakeholders from the design of products to its re-use benefiting both the economy and the environment including the participation of citizens and communities.

CALL 5: Urban authorities have a solid experience in providing sustainable waste management as a service of general interest. Cities can also drive the change towards more sustainable modes of production and consumption, including the untapped potential of water reuse. Adapting to the circular economy will require a qualified workforce with specific and sometimes new skills (especially in design) creating new employment opportunities and social dialogue. It will stimulate the creation of new businesses (including social enterprises) and business models as well as encourage cooperation between manufacturers and retailers to produce more durable, reparable and recyclable products.

CALL 2: They have a key role in fighting littering and reducing amounts of solid waste spread in the environment including in the rivers and finally at sea. New obligations for producers of single use plastic items will be put in lace thorough the future Directive on single use plastics, including the obligation to finance actions to reduce litter. Cities will be in first line to implement concretely these new requirements.
Cities are very often responsible for sustainable, efficient and equitable management of water (incl. drinking water supply and waste water treatment). Good management in networks and installations have positive impacts on maintenance costs and investments at local level. Furthermore, urban authorities are close to citizens when it comes to affordability issues.

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