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EPA publish new Circular Economy Programme as successor to the National Waste Prevention Programme

23 Apr 2021

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Draft National Strategy for Ireland to transition to a Circular Economy published

Applications Opened for the Circular Economy Innovation Grant Scheme

EPA publish new Circular Economy Programme as successor to the National Waste Prevention Programme

 The government has published a draft national strategy on how Ireland can transition to a Circular Economy and is inviting businesses, communities and citizens to contribute their views through a public consultation.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD said:

The Circular Economy is built around ‘doing more with less’ or consuming fewer material resources to sustain our communities, homes and economy.  The model builds on sharing, reusing and reinventing materials to meet our needs and replaces the current ‘take, make, dispose’ model. We are now developing a whole-of-Government strategy to ensure Ireland transitions to a Circular Economy and avails of the opportunities the circular economy can provide.  These opportunities include reducing waste, shrinking our carbon footprint, supporting local and regional economic development, growing new business models and providing skilled employment opportunities.

The draft Strategy sets out what is a circular economy, why Ireland needs to achieve a circular economy and how national policy will develop to support that goal.

It has 5 key objectives:

  • To provide a national policy framework for Ireland’s transition to a circular economy;
  • To support and implement measures that significantly reduce Ireland’s circularity gap, in both absolute terms, and in comparison with other EU Member States, so that Ireland’s rate is above the EU average by 2030;
  • To raise awareness amongst households, business and individuals about the circular economy and how it can improve their lives;
  • To support and promote increased investment in the circular economy in Ireland with a view to delivering sustainable, regionally balanced economic growth and employment; and
  • To identify and address the economic, regulatory, and social barriers to Ireland’s transition to a more circular economy.

The final strategy will provide an important policy signal across the system and the markets that Ireland is committed to a transition to circularity. The government had committed to producing this strategy under the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy.

Our transition to a circular economy will require a whole of society effort. To help communities make the transition to a circular economy, the government has launched a new Circular Economy Innovation Grant Scheme (CEIGS). This grant scheme aims to support innovation and circular economy projects by social enterprises, voluntary and community organisations and businesses with less than 50 employees.  The total CEIGS is €250,000 for the 2021 call. The maximum year 1 grant available will be €50,000 – the indicative funding range for projects is €10,000 – €50,000.

Applications for funding could focus on the thematic areas which relate to priorities for the circular economy in Ireland:  plastics, construction & demolition waste, food waste and resources & raw materials (electrical and electronic equipment, textiles, furniture). Some examples (for illustration purposes) of the type of proposals for funding that could be considered are:

  • Redesign of products or packaging to replace non-recyclable plastic with recyclable   plastic or replace virgin plastic with recyclable plastic.
  • Redesign of products for ease of recycling at end-of-life.
  • Circular construction products (products that can be reused or with increased lifespan).
  • Selective/Green demolition to enable removal of hazardous materials and facilitate reuse and recycling.
  • Promoting innovative waste prevention solutions across the food production and food processing sectors.
  • Implementing technical and behavioural interventions to reduce food waste in commercial settings.
  • Reducing the content of hazardous substances in materials and products.
  • Increase recovery of listed critical raw materials.

 In line with the measures proposed in the Waste Action Plan, today also sees the launch of a consultation on Ireland’s new Circular Economy Programme, led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This new programme builds on fifteen years of leadership by the EPA on waste prevention, including Ireland’s well-regarded food waste prevention campaign and the development of national guidance on priority topics such as Construction Waste Management and Green Public Procurement. Through its work in this area the EPA also supports Dublin’s Rediscovery Centre as the National Centre for the Circular Economy; and Circuleire – the National Circular Manufacturing Platform.

The new EPA Circular Economy Programme will be a driving force for Ireland’s move to a circular economy by businesses, householders and the public sector. It is founded on the waste hierarchy which identifies Prevention as the priority, to be followed by: Re-Use; Repair; and Recycling. Activities within the programme will be focussed on the sectors that use the most resources and where the potential for circularity is high. Through the programme EPA will provide insights and data to support national circular economy policy and behavioural change campaigns. Early examples of this approach will be the development of target-driven roadmaps on Food Waste and Plastics to articulate sectoral actions required to achieve a national shift to circularity. The successful model of partnership working will also be continued and developed, with a new collaboration to grow Ireland’s reuse & repair culture.

The programme objectives are to:

  • Provide leadership to improve coherence on the development and regulation of the circular economy in Ireland.
  • Maintain a competitive programme of supports to drive the circular economy through providing innovation grants and seed-funding to nationally-relevant initiatives.
  • Implement actions that build knowledge and an evidence base to inform circular economy development in Ireland, and to report on progress towards circularity.
  • Realise the enterprise opportunity by supporting new business models; promoting resource efficiency; and retaining material value through enhanced use of secondary/recycled materials.

The public consultation on the Programme is open until 17:30, 11 June 2021.

Speaking at the launch of the programme today, Laura Burke, Director of the EPA said:

“The EPA Circular Economy Programme supports government strategy and will translate national circular ambitions into the daily activities of workplaces and homes across Ireland. Creating a resource efficient economy and resilient society requires rapid and far-reaching transformation across all sectors. This new programme will work with business leaders, public-sector exemplars and the public to change our attitudes to consumption and to develop new opportunities that meet consumer needs while reducing waste and carbon emissions. We look forward to hearing from our stakeholders with their views on the programme’s objectives and priorities.”

The public consultation on the draft Circular Economy Strategy is open until 17:30, 11 June 2021.

Full details on the application process for the CEIGS are available on gov.ie and applications are open until 28 May 2021.

Public Consultation on the draft Circular Economy Strategy

Delivering a circular economy will have positive environmental, economic and social impacts and a well-designed circular policy framework can identify co-benefits, so that environmental improvements also provide economic and social opportunities, and vice versa. Across Europe, countries are adopting towards circular economy practices, and the European Union is pursuing its ‘European Green Deal’ strategy which has the circular economy at its heart. In March 2020, the EU launched its Second Circular Economy Action Plan. At the national level, Ireland is preparing its first Whole-of-Government Circular Economy Strategy in order to ensure policy coherence across the public sector and to outline Government’s overall approach to the circular economy for stakeholders and the public.

Achieving all of these objectives will be a long-term project and, once adopted, the Strategy will be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the objectives are met. Subsequent versions of the Strategy are expected to include more detailed circular economy actions and targets as the national policy framework develops.

In part, circular economy activities are already commonplace: using a reusable cup for a coffee on the go, donating to charity shop, or having a pair of shoes repaired instead of throwing them away are all simple examples of extending a product’s lifespan through re-use and/or repair.

A more specialised example of the circular economy is remanufacturing, which is an industrial process where products are taken apart, cleaned, repaired, and then reassembled to a ‘like-new’ standard so they can be used again. Remanufacturing is well-established practice in several industries, including the automotive and aviation sectors. Remanufacturing is not necessarily driven by environmental concerns, but by the high value of the remanufactured components and because maintenance cycles featuring scheduled remanufacturing are preferable to having components fail before they are replaced.

However, a more ambitious, transformative approach to production and consumption is needed to achieve a systemically circular economy, one in which waste and resource use are minimised by default, in which good design preserves product value for as long as possible, via durability and repair and where, when a product has reached the end of its life, its parts can be readily used again and again to create further useful products.