A WHOLE NEW ATTITUDE
We need a new perspective on waste. The transition to a circular economy is crucial to mitigate climate change, the depletion of our natural resources, and the risk of overshooting planetary boundaries. But the current view on waste stands in the way of this transition.
Many nations and blocs, including the EU, have clearly committed to transferring to a circular economy, and have action plans in place to make it happen. However, the traditional linear economy includes several obstacles to such a transfer. Especially when it comes to how society views waste. The transition to a circular economy requires a whole new attitude towards waste. We need to start treating waste as a valuable source of sustainable resources.
Abandon old principles
Instead of minimising the amount of waste, our overarching goal must be to reduce the unsustainable extraction of virgin materials. The main aim of the so-called waste hierarchy, more or less fundamental to all current legislation and regulation of waste in Europe and other developed countries, is to reduce waste.
This does not address the right issues. On the contrary, it counteracts efforts to establish large-scale circular flows.
Focus on resources
To make a circular economy possible, we must replace the waste hierarchy with a new governing principle focused on resources. The starting point for all legislation and regulation should be a fundamental strategy for a sustainable supply of raw materials. It would allow for the raw materials we already have extracted to be used efficiently, without posing a threat to our health, our environment, or
Adjust skewed market conditions
Give all production of materials the same conditions, regardless of whether its origin is waste or virgin production. Today, virgin materials do not fully bear the cost of their extraction and emissions, which gives them a competitive
advantage compared to recycled materials.
Let the polluter pay
The lawful and lucrative use of harmful substances in goods makes many potential material loops impossible. The polluter, who benefits from introducing harmful substances into the system, must pay for them to be taken out of the system.
Stop regulate waste separately
Unlike virgin materials, the separate regulation of waste often makes it difficult, prohibitively expensive, or even illegal to move waste. This makes it difficult to reach sufficient scale. The same conditions have to apply to the extraction of raw materials from waste streams as to the extraction of virgin materials, without market distortions such as separate regulation, requirements, or taxation.