Moving towards a circular economy with EMAS – Best practices to implement circular economy strategies (with case study examples)

Lecerf, Louise; Alexandra Skinner, Sascha Kunz, Marcel van Meesche and Sébastian Paquot 2017: Moving towards a circular economy with EMAS. Best practices to implement circular economy strategies (with case study examples). Brussels: European Commission.

Resource use is steadily increasing at the global level. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that the amount of material extracted and used increased eightfold throughout the 20th century to exceed 80 billion tonnes in 2015. Projections highlight that a growing population with rising average wealth could push material extraction up to 183 billion tonnes per year by 2050. At the same time, resources are becoming scarcer and more expensive and their extraction and consumption has significant environmental impacts.

Using resources efficiently is therefore the focus of an increasing number of policies, which are acknowledging the need to improve economic resilience and human well-being. The need to use resources more efficiently calls for a change in the traditional development of our current economic model. We need to move from a linear approach - “take, make, consume, dispose” - to one where ressources are used in loops, and no waste is generated. 

"Moving towards a circular economy with EMAS" is a guidance document for EMAS organisations that want to participate in the circular economy and for other organisations that would like to use EMAS, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme of the European Union, in their circular economy strategy. However, it is also targeted at authorities that are committed to make their economic region more circular by highlighting how EMAS can contribute to their objectives, thus calling for more support for EMAS. The report features three case studies to illustrate the measures that EMAS organisations can put in place to become more circular.

Finally, the report reveals how:

  • Circular organisations can experience multiple benefits like increased competitiveness, a better control over their resources and a continuous reduction of their environmental impact.
  • The transition to a circular economy can be started in just a few steps
  • EMAS can be used to support this process by allowing organisations to measure their resource efficiency, identify innovative actions and continuously improve. The report provides guidance on how future and current EMAS registered organisations can develop their environmental management system with circular economy in mind.