Closing material loops: a radical shift from linear to circular thinking

The concept of a circular economy has recently gained traction in Europe as a positive, solutions-based perspective for achieving economic development within increasing environmental constraints. Raw, processed and advanced materials, from primary and secondary sources, are the backbone of the economy. A radical shift is required from linear to circular thinking. End-of-life products must be considered as a resource for another cycle, while losses and stocks of unused materials must be minimised and valorised along the value chain. In addition, the interactions between materials must be considered to define the best circular solution from a systemic standpoint. Awareness of the benefits of closing material loopsmust be raised in society. The successful transition of a society to the circular economy at the global scale depends on the reliable and sustainable supply and management of raw materials.

Different type of actors, such as business, consumers, citizens, cities etc., are key in driving this process so the Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will consider society as a whole (business and cities) defining actions (strategic and operational) to support the transition from linear to Circular Society.

The Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse program will demonstrate the raw materials sector as a major strength and central service provider for the transition to Circular Societies.

The main objective of this Lighthouse will be to support and boost the transition from Linear Societies to Circular ones through the support of innovative solutions to be implemented in cities and industries.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies contributions to the EU Green Deal

This Communication sets out a European Green Deal for the European Union (EU) and its citizens. It resets the European Commission’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges that is this generation’s defining task.

The European Green Deal is a response to these challenges. It is a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.

The figure below illustrates the various elements of the EU Green Deal.

Circular economy and resource efficiency will be one of the main pillars that will support the ambitious objectives defined in the EU Green Deal. This main pillar matches perfectly the Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse. Therefore, the achievements of this Lighthouse are fully aligned with and will clearly support the implementation of the EU Green Deal.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies contributions to key SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The 17 SDGs are integrated—that is, they recognise that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

The Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will have a significant impact on the SDG 12 – “Responsible Production and Consumption”. This goal is fundamental for the achievement of the other goals. EIT RawMaterials and the Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will clearly support the specific objectives of this goal regarding the reduction of the carbon footprint and the change in the way we produce and consume.

Through this Lighthouse, EIT RawMaterials will have a vehicle to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and contribute to the SDG 9, which states that by 2030 there will be a significant increase in industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, an infrastructure upgrade and retrofitting of industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and more widespread adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies to industrial processes, in line with national circumstances.

This Lighthouse will also have a clear impact on the SDG 11 – “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, not only through the development of new technological solutions aiming to achieve resource-efficient cities and communities but also by educating consumers and young people for a behavioural change.

All these actions will also have a clear positive impact on the SDG 13 – “Climate Action”.

The Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will also engage with students (especially children and young people), consumers of final products and industrial sectors consumers of raw materials. The implementation of this Lighthouse will have clear and direct impacts on the Sustainable Development Goals as previously described but also it will contribute to the achievement of different European initiatives as the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Zero Waste Initiative or the Resource-efficient Europe as examples of some of the main initiatives.

EIT RawMaterials Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse Position Paper