What is the circular economy?

A change of paradigm is currently taking place in the ruling economic model. The traditional linear concept of extraction, production, consumption and discarding, which is unsustainable in the face of constant growth in population and demand is giving way to new and more innovative models based on the circularity of resources and on products designed to last and to return to the value chain, incorporating the elimination of toxic material and the use of renewable energies: a regenerative economy by design.

Also, the capacity of the economy to adapt and become an efficient yet competitive model requires a thorough transformation of all social and economic activity, accompanied by technological, legislative and cultural changes. Eco-design, the reuse of by-products, eco-innovation in materials and production processes and the new models of business designed to cover the needs of today’s consumer all generate opportunities for innovative projects aimed at modifying models of production and consumption and facilitating that change.

With a global market estimated at 30 million Euros annually and which is expected to triple before 2030, the circular economy is a great opportunity to promote competition and the creation of jobs in European and world economies.

Faced with this challenge, the Research Park of the UAB and the Department of Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia has launched this programme aimed at companies, researchers and PhD students who want to do business in this sector, generating innovative projects in the circular economy.

CURRENT CONTEXT

In December 2015 the European Commission presented the Action Plan for the Circular Economy – a package of measures aimed at the entire life cycle: the prevention of waste generation, repairability, durability, recyclability, biodegradability, green public procurement and the secondary raw materials market, among others. Since then, it has presented a series of measures and incentives to change the economic model.

The same year, on the occasion of the UN World Summit for Sustainable Development, all the countries in the world approved the agenda 2030 with 17 Objectives for Sustainable Development and landmark challenges to make the transition towards a more sustainable model of production and consumption.

Setting out from its Promotion Strategy for the Green and Circular economy approved in May, the Government of Catalonia is making progress with the creation of a global brand to facilitate the development of the circular economy. Other key instruments such as the Catalan Eco—design Strategy, the General Programme for the Prevention and Management of Waste and Resources in Catalonia (2013-2020) and the approval of the National Pact for Industry, with one of its main lines dedicated to Sustainability and the Circular Economy. Organisation such as the Waste Agency of Catalonia and ACCIÓ have also offered different incentives to companies for the design and execution of proposals that open up major opportunities for circular business.