How could the Digital Single Market benefit european consumers? This year's theme was a wide-ranging subject covering issues affecting consumers today in a very tangible way. The Committee has recently issued several Opinions and studies covering the digital transformation and how it impacts modes of production and consumption, and its work feeded into the discussions on many relevant topics, such as data sharing, digital inclusion and access to internet for all, artifical intelligence, digital contract rights, unnecessary geo-blocking, digital currencies and fintech, the sharing economy and the Collaborative economy.
The hallmark of a sustainable circular economy is a society that reduces its burden on nature by ensuring that resources remain in use for as long as possible. Once the maximum value has been extracted, resources can then be recovered and reused, remanufactured, or recycled to create new products.
In the context of the Slovak Presidency to the EU, the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee is organising a conference entitled "Sustainable Industry in the context of the Circular Economy". The event will take place on 13th September 2016 in Kosice, Slovakia. The participants of the discussion will elaborate on how the circular economy can support sustainable growth and the role of business in the transition to a more circular economy.
The functional economy focuses on the use of a product rather than its ownership. Specifically, with the functional economy model, a company sells the right to use a product of which it maintains ownership. The famous example is Michelin, which no longer sells tires for fleets of company cars, but supplies "mobility services" consisting of repairing, retreading and in some cases exchanging tires. The economic outcome is that the company has an interest in making its products last as long as possible because the price is based on usage (in this case, the number of kilometres driven) and thus in reducing waste.
The European Commission released in December 2015 the new version of the circular economy package. Its aim is to help the European economy move from linear to circular, more resource-efficient patterns, by ensuring that less resources are extracted from our natural environment and less waste is produced at the end of the product lifecycle. The package focuses on better design of products, improved waste management and recycling performance of EU Member States and the growth and job creation potential of the circular economy. It includes an Action Plan with a specific timeline up until 2017 on production aspects as well as a series of modifications to the waste legislation.