The first phase of the circular economy has been a huge success. The concept is being mainstreamed in the business sector in particular, with private companies moving ahead of policy-makers in seeing the potential of work based on a circular economy model. EU initiatives have kick-started this and been a driving force for action. The circular economy has already moved beyond recycling and waste management into a new and more critical stage. The EESC encourages the incoming Commission in 2019 to ensure that this broadening of the concept is reflected in any new circular economy package.
The circular economy is a practical means of achieving broader international policy goals such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement. It can also contribute to the Global Climate Action Agenda through the active participation of non-state actors, including local and regional governments and civil society organisations as represented by the three groups of the EESC.
The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ECESP) and its Coordination Group have a crucial role to play in developing the next stages and implementing the circular transition, by acting as an information hub through the ECESP website. The Platform also provides strong networking opportunities and encourages synergies, and is well positioned to design a template for a circular economy roadmap that could be made freely available.
The ECESP secretariat, which the EESC manages, has put civil society and stakeholders at the heart of the Platform's decision-making. The EESC supports a stakeholder-led initiative, and encourages stakeholders to identify and signal the practical barriers faced by civil society in driving the circular economy agenda. The ECESP is ideally placed for this, working with the secretariat to propose solutions to such barriers.
Support for roadmaps, and support for creating synergies, must be complemented by research and development, the appropriate regulatory environment, education across all stakeholders, and information on access to financial support for transitioning to circularity.
There are obvious barriers to achieving a circular economy, despite the successes to date. These include political, public perspective, infrastructural governance, and financial barriers. The ECESP must identify and flag up any other barriers when proposing solutions to policy-makers.