EY Study on the Circular Economy in Greece

On December 2, 2015 the European Commission (EC) adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Package to “stimulate Europe’s transition towards a Circular Economy, which will boost global competitiveness, foster economic growth and generate new jobs.1

The Package contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness.

Although the Circular Economy is often bracketed together with recycling, these two are very distinct and different and should not be seen as synonymous. Materials that have been jumbled up in the waste stream or have been contaminated lose much of their value, and the recycling process to clean and convert them into usable products can itself consume a large amount of energy. In the Circular Economy the emphasis is on designing goods to be long-lasting, easy to repair and reuse, easy to disassemble and easy to remake into items that are as good as, if not better than, their virgin equivalents. The Circular Economy is more than squeezing more life from a fixed stock of resources that have been dug from the ground at the expense of the environment.

Policy Agenda

To stimulate and support this policy direction the EC has committed to a long and very ambitious policy agenda to streamline and optimize waste streams, recycling, primary raw materials and obsolescence of products and more, and will support these initiatives: ”with €650 million from Horizon 2020 (the EU program for research and innovation) and €5.5 billion from structural funds from waste management and investments in the Circular Economy at national level.2

At the same time, especially in Greece, the Circular Economy could stimulate the necessary dialogue for resolution of chronic confrontational topics, such as waste management including reuse, storage, and treatment. A dialogue of transformation with the State, regional and local government authorities, but also businesses, industry and the civil society, is necessary to change mindsets on the issue of wastes, both municipal and industrial, waste treatment, the location of landfills, avoiding EU penalties levied against unpermitted or dysfunctional waste facilities and landfills, and other dysfunctions of the current context.

In this context, SEV’s Business Council for Sustainable Development commissioned the Sustainability practice of EY in Greece to prepare a Study on the Circular Economy in Greece. The objective of this study is to promote the potential for transformational change that the Circular Economy can bring to the status quo of the Greek economy, both upstream and downstream, including the disruptive resolution of chronic confrontation topics, such as waste management, and extending to the provision of investment opportunities, as a catalyst towards sustainable growth.

In order to meet the objective of raising awareness and stressing the need for action on the transition to the Circular Economy in Greece, the study was developed in two phases.

Phase One

The first phase included the documentation of the current legislative and regulatory framework regarding the Circular Economy at both the EU and the national level. Given the vast array of issues covered by the Circular Economy, the scope definition and selection of relevant EU and Greek legislation, regulation, and other governmental initiatives was limited to the criteria mentioned in the current state documentation framework agreed with SEV BCSD, per category of required information. The clear message deriving from the analysis is that implementation of the European legislative framework into the Greek legal system should not be limited to the typical procedure of translating, repeating or rephrasing European law via a national legislative instrument, but it should further include the political will to exercise all powers available to make this law operational and effective in practice, setting thus the required underpinnings for the transformation of the Greek economy to progress to the Circular Economy. Finally, in order to provide a more holistic view, the study was expanded to governmental initiatives, within the EU, for the development of the Circular Economy. In order to proceed with documentation and analysis, we selected a benchmarking group of EU countries considered frontrunners in relevant implementation, and identified examples worth sharing for both awareness raising purposes, as well as for providing inspiration for policy makers in Greece.

Phase Two

The second phase consisted of an analysis based on a documentation of the main material and product flows within the respective life cycles, a current state assessment and gap analysis against specific aspects of the Circular Economy for selected sectors in Greece and the EU, an identification of specific Circular Economy models currently applied as mainstream practices in Greece and the EU, inclusion of indicative international leading practice examples for the selected sectors, as well as main barriers and proposed policies for facilitating the transition to the Circular Economy in Greece. The second phase was based both on primary and secondary research.

The stakeholder engagement approach was based on stakeholder dialog/conversations with business associations and other third parties, which was identified early as a key element and objective of the study. This approach was deemed necessary in order to collect sector specific data that may not have necessarily been publicly available, to understand material and product flows, to document current Circular Economy models applied and potential models to be applied in the future, to assess the current state of each sector against specific circularity aspects, as well as to discuss existing barriers and potential policy interventions towards a successful transition.

Key Conclusions

The main conclusions on the current state of the Circular Economy in Greece are:

  • Need for legislative and regulatory reform toward the Circular Economy
  • Fragmented adoption of circular models, in the context of inefficient systemic approach
  • Emphasis is placed on the ‘end-of-life’ stage, rather than on the design stage
  • Recycling and recovery of construction and demolition waste requires considerable improvement
  • Energy is largely dependent on non-renewable sources and efficiency is relatively low
  • Bio-waste and food waste recovery is limited, resulting in significant economic and environmental impacts
  • Need for law enforcement of hazardous waste legislation
  • Addressing waste market barriers

Finally, indicative focus areas towards the transition to the Circular Economy include:

  • Development of a national roadmap for the transition to the Circular Economy
  • Development of collaboration platforms
  • Sectorial level assessments
  • Awareness raising at consumer level

To read the brief summary of the study visit http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-study-on-the-circular-economy-in-greece/$FILE/EY-study-on-the-circular-economy-in-greece.pdf

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