On Monday, July 1st, in Leuven, Belgium, the Circular Economy Modeling workshop took place, sponsored by CMCC and the EU-funded CircEUlar project, along with partners EAYE and the EU & ANR projects: IAM-Circ, Circomod, and ScarCyclET.

This workshop preceded the 29th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in 2024 and aimed to bring together researchers interested in the economic aspects of the circular economy.

A previous news item details the program of academic presentations at this link.

The workshop was also fortunate to receive panelists from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In particular, Gillian Foster from JRC (Unit B5 – Circular Economy and Sustainable Industry) presented a case study on the textile industry in the European Union, based on the report Techno-scientific assessment of the management options for used waste textiles in the European Union.” The speaker presented alarming data as a focal point: out of the 11 Mt of post-consumer textiles (becoming potential waste), 5 Mt come from clothing, which represents approximately 12 kg per person in the EU annually. Furthermore, only 1% of used clothing is recycled into new clothing. Specifically, the authors use mass flow analysis to estimate such results. Gillian Foster then presented a research article from JRC, Management of textile waste in Europe: An environmental and socio-economic assessment of current and future scenarios, published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, which compares the life cycle impacts of textile waste management. They find that preparing for reuse is the most beneficial management type from an environmental and socio-economic perspective, followed by mechanical recycling. However, recycling must find economic competitiveness against incineration, either through a higher CO2 price or lower technical costs.

Next, Toon Vandyck from the Environment Directorate of the OECD presented a report titled Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060″.   The report reveals global projections of material use and the associated environmental impacts up to 2060. It details scenarios for 61 materials (biomass resources, fossil fuels, metals, and non-metallic minerals), both primary and secondary (from recycling), highlighting the synergies and trade-offs between extraction and recycling. A striking result from the report is the expectation of a doubling of global primary materials use between today and 2060, primarily driven by population growth and the convergence of per capita incomes. Metals and non-metallic minerals are projected to grow more rapidly than other types of materials. Based on this first report, the OECD team studied policy scenarios, the results of which are available in a working paper titled Policy scenarios for a transition to a more resource efficient and circular economy. In particular, this report examines the economic and environmental impacts of a global material fiscal reform, which implements taxes on primary metal and mineral resources, and uses the revenue from these taxes to finance subsidies for recycled goods and secondary metal production. The authors find that implementing the material fiscal reform would allow a relative decoupling of primary material use from economic growth in future years.

By Eugénie Joltreau – RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), Fondazione Centro Euromediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC)