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10 good reasons for Manufacturing SMEs to adopt the circular economy principles in Europe

  • The European Union took a series of actions promoting the transition to a carbon-neutral, resource efficient, and competitive economy and helping industries to adopt the circular economy principles.  
  • The impact of industrial massive production has caused severe damage to the planet, and human influence on climate change has been scientifically proved by observing thousand years of temperatures evolution. 
  • SMEs contribute significantly to Europe growth playing a fundamental role in the transition from a linear to a circular economy.

Reduce e-waste, extends lifespans, stop the biodiversity loss, save tons of CO2, and make profit 

Stepping into a more sustainable future sounds like it is finally making sense, although many contradictions still exist in manufacturing. Starting with the number one object that, on average, you touch over 2600 times daily: your phone. As you may imagine, no less than 70% of your device’s components are extracted from mines in Asia, Africa, and South America, while 90% of biodiversity loss is caused by resource extraction and processing. It seems phone constructors are now engaged in creating less planned obsolescent devices to avoid customers having to change devices every 2 or 3 years and consequently producing more e-waste. Nowadays, with 150 million phones thrown away yearly, all the sector value chains urgently need to consider circular economy principles. 

Nevertheless, it is Europe that must oblige manufacturers to adopt best practices, such as the new regulation from the European Council requiring all smartphones to have replaceable batteries by 2027. The problem is quite significant because of the roughly 1.5 billion phones sold yearly, only 20 per cent are recycled. Within those 20 per cent, only 30 to 50 per cent of the minerals are possibly being extracted. Reducing e-waste would be an excellent reason to adopt circular economy principles. Start-up Back Market sells refurbished products in 15 countries worldwide, saving the planet 261,848 tons of CO2 since 2014. With 1.5 million customers (about the population of Munich) in 2019, the company shows that refurbishing can also be profitable, but a change of mindset is still necessary, especially in the technology sector. 

Create informed customers and change the way we consume 

According to a 2022 Eurobarometer survey, 77% of Europeans feel a personal responsibility to act to limit climate change. How does Europe help customers to adopt sustainable consumption habits? The European Commission adopted a new proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods. Basically, the main idea behind the proposal is to make repairs, the new trend before replacing. To empower consumers, it is about giving them the right to claim repair to producers, for products that are technically repairable under EU law, like a washing machine or a TV. Furthermore, customers must be informed by producers about the products that they are obliged to repair themselves. The proposal also includes the creation of an online national repair platform, a European Repair Information Form, and a voluntary European quality standard for repair services. 

Design for circularity, make sustainable products the norm in the EU, and generate positive impact,  

The new generation is bombarded with daily doses of data that sound apocalyptic. By 2050, one earth will not be enough anymore. Three will be needed to satisfy all our vices of consumption. Consumption of plastics is expected to double in the coming 20 years. Less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are estimated to be recycled into new textiles. Those data are genuinely frightening, but solutions already exist, and above all, people, designers, entrepreneurs, and makers explore, investigate, and showcase new ways to produce and help customers to consume consciously. After decades of bad habits, making sustainable products the norm in the European Union can be challenging.  

The new circular action plan adopted in March 2020 paves the way for reducing pressure on natural resources and creating sustainable growth and jobs. President of the European Commission, Ursula Van der Layen, in her 2020 State of the Union address, demonstrated the strong engagement from the institution: “For too long, global growth has been based on predatory ideas. Humanity took away resources from the environment, and in exchange, produced waste and pollution. I am convinced this can change”.  

Leverage the workforce as a key lever for transformation, create new jobs 

The promise should allow citizens access to high-quality, functional, and safe products that are efficient, affordable, last longer, and are designed for reuse, repair, and high-quality recycling. The European Commission claims that 1 million jobs could be created with a more circular economy. The question that pops up in your mind right now is what a circular economy job is. According to the Circular Economy Foundation, a circular job is any occupation that directly or indirectly supports one of the critical elements of the circular economy. Three types of circular jobs can be distinguished: Core circular jobs are all jobs that ensure the closure of raw material cycles, including jobs in repair, renewable energy, waste and resource management. Enabling circular jobs removes barriers to and promotes the acceleration and upscaling of core circular activities, including jobs that arise in leasing, education, design and digital technology. Jobs that indirectly uphold the circular economy are called indirectly circular jobs. Evidence of a growing transformation is already tracked through Circular Jobs Monitor. 

With those 10 good reasons to adopt the circular economy principles, it is only a matter of finding the right opportunities and financial support to jump into the circular transition. Join us at CIRCULOOS and become a part of the change. Stay tuned for the next open calls.



Marjorie Grassler
European project manager | Mobile World Capital Foundation