In an article published on June 27, 2016 by the magazine Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), editor Alex Scott reports on the progression of implementing the circular economy in the European Union. In particular, Scott reports on the debate on how to handle hazardous chemicals in closed loop systems. At the Helsinki Chemicals Forum on May 26-27, 2016 in Finland, experts from industry, government, and environmental groups discussed which chemicals should be included in the circular economy and which should not. According to Peter Smith, executive director of product stewardship at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), inclusion or exclusion of chemicals should be decided on a case-by-case basis considering costs and benefits. In contrast, Axel Singhofen, adviser on health and environment policy to the European Parliament, is in favor of strict rules because “circularity alone could even increase problems when you have hazardous materials.” Singhofen promoted: “Toxics out, then recycle; not the other way around.” The European Commission considers extending the regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) in order to manage chemicals in waste recycling streams. Geert Dancet, head of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), proposed that ECHA could become the responsible body for overseeing the tracking of chemicals in the circular economy.

Further, Scott summarizes projects incorporating circular economy principles that are already under way, such as Dow Chemical’s fully recyclable food packaging pouches made from polyethylene, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative (FPF reported).

In March 2016, the peer-reviewed journal Nature also released a series of articles on the circular economy, looking at the benefits for the economy and the environment, lessons and solutions from China, the repurposing of goods, and circularity as a core principle of eco-design.

Read more

Alex Scott (June 27, 2016). “Europe circles the circular economy.C&EN

Nature (March 23, 2016). “The circular economy.