One of the key messages of the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2019 is that governments should collaborate more in the transition to circular economy. 'For most countries their economies are too small to be self-sufficient in circularity. In order to have full circularity there’s a need for co-operation across borders,' said Elliot Harris, UN Assistant Secretary General and Chief Economist.

Organised on 3-5 June 2019 in the Finnish capital Helsinki the event brought together approximately 2,000 business leaders, policymakers and experts to present the world’s best circular economy solutions for governments, industries, businesses and citizens. WCEF 2019 had a strong emphasis on strengthening the circular economy transition. This can be done by increasing investments into circular economy businesses, adopting new technologies and making significant regulatory changes. 

Here are the main highlights of the event:

Creating the policy framework 

Circular economy should become the very core of economic and competitiveness policies, both at national and regional level. In particular, the role of circular economy roadmaps and strategies is essential in achieving common understanding of the need for such economic transition, in engaging different stakeholders, including businesses, and in removing obstacles to its implementation.

This acknowledgement is well reflected in the stock of good practices of Interreg Europe projects. For example, the good practice from Finland 'Regional road map towards circular economy' identified by BIOREGIO project is a positive example of translating national circular economy priorities to a regional context by creating a joint regional strategy with a bottom-up approach.

The Finnish Roadmap to Circular economy mentioned as one of the inspiring examples at the event, was also identified as a good example by the Interreg Europe SYMBI project. The roadmap includes descriptions of the essential circular economy focus areas to which Finnish stakeholders have already committed. These include a sustainable food system, forest-based loops, technical loops, transport and logistics, and joint actions.

The role of cities in leading the change and acting as platforms for innovation and business development in the circular economy was also discussed. London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), presented the programme Resource London that supports London’s local authorities in addressing challenges related to reducing waste, increasing recycling and implementing circular economy agenda. LWARB is a partner in Interreg Europe CircE project that is focusing on regional actions supporting steering economy towards a circular model. 

Circular innovative solutions

The adoption of innovative solutions was discussed as a way to accelerate circular business models in companies. Special emphasis was put on finding circular and bio-economy solutions to plastics:  the way plastics are currently produced, used and discarded harms the environment and too often fails to capture the economic benefits of a more 'circular' approach. The gravity of plastic waste is at the core of the EU Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy which takes a systemic, life-cycle approach to the plastics value chain. The recently funded Interreg Europe PLASTECO project will focus on addressing plastics waste The way regional policies can stimulate businesses to move away from the “Take-Make-Dispose” model and become more circular was at the core of recent events organised by Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform: a  webinar on circular business models and a thematic workshop on industrial symbiosis.

One of the key messages the WCEF2019 sent to the EU is that Europe should show global leadership on the circular economy. 'Europe wants to lead, and there is strong public support from EU citizens' said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.  

Links to the relevant sessions and recordings:

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